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Canaletto’s Venice Revisited

Canaletto’s Venice Revisited

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Take a trip to Venice's gleaming canals and pretend you're on your own grand tour in this week's talk.

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Venice’s busy canals have beguiled generations of artists and travellers, but few painters are more closely associated with the city than Canaletto (1697–1768). His paintings are not simply depictions of canals, squares, and buildings. They are carefully constructed portraits of a living city, enlivened with people and boats. Seen through 21st-century eyes, such insights into Venice’s past are deeply poignant. While Canaletto’s masterpieces give the impression of an enduring city, in recent years Venice has come to be seen as a ‘dying city’ under threat from rising sea levels, population decline and mass tourism.

This talk explores what Canaletto’s paintings can tell us about the relationship between Venetians and their environment. How has this relationship changed over time? What are the problems today? What might the future of Venice look like? These questions lie at the heart of Canaletto’s Venice Revisited, a new exhibition at the National Maritime Museum (1 April – 25 September 2022). The exhibition features a series of twenty-four paintings from the height of Canaletto’s career. Lord John Russell, the future 4th Duke of Bedford, commissioned the series as a souvenir of his travels after visiting Venice in 1731. The generous loan of this important series from its permanent home at Woburn Abbey provides a timely opportunity to reflect on Venice’s dynamic history and precarious present.

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Dr Katherine Gazzard is Curator of Art (Post-1800) at Royal Museums Greenwich. She previously taught art history and museum studies at the University of East Anglia and has worked on projects at the Royal Asiatic Society, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and the National Portrait Gallery. She received her PhD in 2019 with a thesis on 18th-century naval officers’ portraits. She is the lead curator of the exhibition Canaletto’s Venice Revisited, which is open at the National Maritime Museum until 25 September 2022.

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