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Francesco Guardi
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Known for his views of Venice, the painter and draftsman Francesco Guardi was a member of a family of artists. His family has been traced to the Val di Sole in the Trentino region of Italy, an dhad been granted a patent of nobility by Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III (1608-1657) in 1643. Francesco’s father Domenico (1678-1716) was trained in Vienna, where Domenico’s brother Giovanni (1641-1717) was a clergyman at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Domenico married in Vienna, where his eldest son Giovanni Antonio (1699-1760) was born. The family was in Venice by 1702 when his daughter Maria Cecilia (1702-1779) was born. Francesco, born in 1712, his brother Nicolò (1715-1786) and Giovanni Antonio all became artists, and Cecilia married the great Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770). Domenico died when Francesco was four; some scholars speculate that the eldest son took over the father’s workshop and that Francesco was trained under his brother, but no documentation for this exists. Documentation about Francesco’s life is sparse. He is recorded as living in Venice in 1742 and in 1749. Francesco was painting in a variety of genres during his early career. Scholars believe that Francesco worked as in the family workshop but left his brother’s studio sometime before Giovanni Antonio’s death in 1760. Francesco’s first signed painting is from 1739. Correspondence in 1750 indicates he was receiving commissions on his own. He married in 1757. Two of his four children died in infancy, and his wife died after giving birth to his youngest child Giacomo (1764-1835), who would go on to be an artist. By the middle of the 1750s Francesco began specializing in the “vedute” (views) for which he became known. How Francesco trained as a “vedutista” is not known. It is possible that he was an apprentice of Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768), either before Canaletto went to England in 1746 or after he returned to Venice in 1755. Some of Francesco’s early views are copies of works by Canaletto. A letter notes that Francesco exhibited two views of Venice in the Piazza San Marco in 1764, both of which had been painted with the use of a camera obscura, apparently following Canaletto’s practice. Later in his career Francesco probably abandoned the use of a camera obscura, since he was criticized for failure to depict the topography of Venice accurately. Canaletto served as a frequent inspiration for Guardi; for example his twelve paintings depicting “Ceremonies at the Installation of the Doge” (1770s, Paris: Musée du Louvre and Brussels: Museum of Ancient Art) were based on a set of engravings after Canaletto drawings. Francesco painted religious works as well, but these are thought to be much less successful than his views. He is also known for his “Capricci,” drawings and paintings depicting Venetian architecture and Romantic landscapes. He also accepted commissions for portraits, copies of old masters and other genres.Aristocrats and the Doge gave him commissions to depict ceremonial occasions. He also designed temporary structures built for celebrations and highly ornamented parade boats for aristocrats who followed the Doge’s barge through Venetian canals. A painter who worked rapidly, about 850 paintings and 530 drawings have been attributed to him. His son Giacomo became his studio assistant. At the end of his life Francesco lived with is older son Vincenzo (1760-?), a parish priest. After Francesco died in 1793, his son Giacomo took over his studio and continued to paint and draw views of Venice. (TNB 3/2015) Selected bibliography: Binion, Alice. Antonio and Francesco Guardi, their Life and Milieu: with a Catalogue of their Figure Drawings. Doctoral dissertation. New York: Garland Publishing, 1976. [Not in FAM or SFPL; available from Link+] Byam Shaw, James. The Drawings of Francesco Guardi. London; Faber and Faber, 1951. Merling, Mitchell. “The Brothers Guardi,” pp. 293-327 in Jane Martineau and Andrew Robinson, eds. The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century. Edxhibition catalog. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994.