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Francesco Guardi

1712 – Venice – 1793

Francesco Guardi is the best-known member of a family of painters, and is particularly celebrated, along with Canaletto, for his vedute, the highly detailed, picturesque cityscapes of Venice that were a popular genre of paintings in the 18th century.

To date, there is little documentation available to shed light on the life and artistic development of Francesco Guardi. It is known that he worked in the workshop of his father, Gian Domenico with his brother Gianantonio. His father was a student of the renowned master Sébastiano Ricci, whose paintings had a strong influence on the development of Francesco’s style. It is through him that Guardi learned the relatively loose brushwork technique that would dominate the development of his style as a great Venetian painter. In an initial phase, he was a painter of decorations and church panels. It was only after the death of his brother Gianantonio in 1760 that Guardi would focus his attention on views of the Serenissima. He therefore became the first artist to exclusively focus on depicting reality as he perceived it. He was able to magnificently capture a lyrical vision of a city or landscape. Francesco Guardi is the first representative of this new sensibility that would soon dominate Venetian painting as a whole, at the time when the maritime republic began to enter a phase of political and economic decline. Guardi, ever improving his mastery of his unique style, continued to paint his vedute and capricci until late in life. Today, Guardi holds an important place in art history. His works have been scattered throughout the world (seven of them are at the Louvre). His vision of Venice influenced the great painters who drew inspiration from the city, such as Monet and Turner. The style of Francesco Guardi, like that of Constable, Goya and the masters of the Fontainebleau school, laid the groundwork for a new approach to painting that would ultimately lead, at the dawn of the 20th century, to the birth of modern painting.