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Canaletto was a smart and busy Italian painter who was best known for his detailed landscapes of Venice, Rome, and London. He was much more than a routine guildsman. His work has a unique quality that comes from the fact that he was able to mix real and made-up words in a way that was very convincing. His "tourist" paintings, which were very popular with wealthy people who traveled, were carefully put together, with compositional harmony rather than strict geographical truth being his main goal. In his later years, Canaletto made a number of important "real-time" etchings that were so good that they influenced the next generation of English landscape painters. Canaletto's early reputation was solidified while he was working in England. He then went back to Venice, where he finished his career by drawing more intimate cityscapes in the light and frivolous Rococo style.
Canaletto usually made pictures of well-known places that he rearranged in new ways (called capriccio) to create dramatic effects. Part of his pictures could also be made up of made-up buildings and scenes (veduta ideata).
As a follower of the great Renaissance artists, Canaletto was praised for his skillful use of light, shadow, and cloud effects, as well as the way he played with light on buildings. Many of his preparations were done "on location" instead of in the studio, which was a highly unusual artistic choice at the time.
The fine detail in Canaletto's drawings of buildings is due to the fact that he used a camera obscura to make plans from which he could build his finely detailed topographies.
Canaletto made a group of about 30 important etchings. People thought his drawings (on paper) were very skilled and sensitive, with a full understanding of perspective and colors.