Giovanni Antonio Canaletto was born in Venice in 1697. He was a pupil of his father, Bernardo Canale, who was a scene painter for theatres and of Luca Carlevaris of Udine. He went to Rome and studied perspective, making drawings of ruins and of landscape. Returning to his native city, he devoted his life to recording every aspect of its architectural and natural beauty, which he did in painting and etching, producing masterpieces in both branches of art. Many Londoners visiting in Venice returned with Canaletto's etchings and oil paintings, called 'vedute', facile, panoramic views of the city that predated the picture postcard.
Canaletto became more prolific as a draughtsman, mainly in pen and ink, and began painting the ceremonial and festival subjects which ultimately formed an important part of his work. His patrons were chiefly English collectors, including the Duke of Bedford and Joseph Smith, an English merchant in Venice. Such was his fame in England that Canaletto's patrons persuaded him to stay there and paint their murky land; from 1746 to 1755 he was in England. He also gave increased attention to the graphic arts, making a remarkable series of etchings and many drawings in pen and wash. For a time he was very successful, painting views of London and of various country houses. But his work became increasingly lifeless and mannered, so much so that rumors were put about, probably by rivals, that he was not in fact the famous Canaletto, but an impostor. About 1755 he was finally back in Venice and continued active as painter and draughtsman with undiminished skill, though still highly mannered. In 1763, he was elected a member of the Venice Academy. He died in Venice in 1768.
Canaletto was a superb draughtsman who could not only make accurate records of particular places, but also knew how to convey a sense of the sparkling light and bright colors of the Venetian scene. His talent is by far superior to his nephew, Bernardo Bellotto, who also painted under the name Canaletto.