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Canaletto's Drawings

Venice: The Bacino looking west on Ascension Day©

The majority of the drawings in this exhibition are independent works of art, rather than studies for paintings. They were drawn in Canaletto’s studio, either on the basis of detailed studies made ‘on the spot’– the same studies that also served for Canaletto’s paintings –or as imaginary compositions.

The compositions were usually drawn with a quill pen over an underdrawing of ruled and freehand pencil lines. Occasional pin holes in the surface of the paper show how Canaletto measured out the compositions and constructed the perspectives. Some of the drawings are finished with the application of grey or brown washes. Though the buildings were rigorously laid out, Canaletto populated his scenes with small figures drawn in a familiar shorthand of looped lines.

Many of the drawings fall into distinct series, identical in size, style and technique. They were kept in an album in the library of Canaletto’s patron, Joseph Smith, rather than being framed and hung in the light, and are thus in wonderful condition.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.