A brilliant master of the urban landscape who has lived all his life in the shadow of the great Canaletto
Francesco Guardi (October 5, 1712 January 1, 1793) a talented Italian painter of the 18th century, an outstanding master of urban landscape, a prominent representative of the Venetian school of fine arts. At the initial stage of his work, Francesco Guardi also painted pictures in the religious genre, but later completely devoted himself to leading. The biography of the painter is closely connected with Venice, unlike most of his colleagues, he practically did not travel and very rarely left his hometown.
Francesco Guardi is rightfully considered the most famous representative of the family of artists. His father Domenico, two brothers (Gianantonio and Nicolo) and son Giacomo were also professional painters, and the famous landscape painter’s own sister was married to the greatest master of the Italian Rococo Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Giovanni Battista Tiepolo).
Biography of Francesco Guardi
Francesco Lazzaro Guardi was born on October 5, 1712 in Venice. His parents were of noble noble origins, but did not belong to the wealthy families of the republic. Father Francesco owned a small art workshop, in which from childhood he introduced his three sons to the basics of painting. But in 1716, Domenico Guardi died suddenly at the age of 38, leaving four children in the care of his wife Maria Claudia.
The family workshop was inherited by the elder brother of the hero of our article Gianantonio, who at that time was only 17 years old. He also became the first mentor of Francesco and Nicolo, the brothers worked together until 1735. Representatives of the Guardi family dynasty traditionally engaged in painting religious paintings and making copies of works by famous Italian masters, but Francesco liked city landscapes more. Therefore, at the age of 22, he left the family business and got a job as an assistant in the workshop of the Venetian vedutist Michele Marieschi.
heavily influenced by the works of Canaletto and Luca Carlevaris
At the beginning of his career as an artist, Francesco Guardi was heavily influenced by the works of two of the greatest representatives of the genre, Canaletto and Luca Carlevaris. His cityscapes from the 1740s and 60s are painted in a characteristic academic style, in which magnificent views of Venice occupy the center of the artistic composition.
But later the artist’s manner of painting changed after a close acquaintance with the work of Alessandro Magnasco. In later works, Guardi also paid great attention to the image of the beauty of the surrounding nature, the violent elements of the wind and the approaching thunderstorm.
Despite the recognition of the public, Francesco experienced serious financial difficulties all his life. Lack of funds was also one of the main reasons that the master remained a bachelor for a long time. Only in 1757, at the age of 45, he married Maria Pagani, the daughter of an unremarkable Venetian artist. The wife was 27 years younger than the painter; she died in 1769 from complications after giving birth to her third child, who lived only a few days. And after the death of his wife, Francesco Guardi had to deal with the upbringing of the two older sons on their own.
member of the guild of Venetian artists
In 1761, Guardi became a member of the guild of Venetian artists, but this event did not affect his financial situation in any way. Over the years, Francesco made a living from random orders, struggling to find funds to support his family. Only in 1782, the authorities of Venice offered the 70-year-old painter a solid contract to paint 6 large-scale paintings dedicated to the visit to the city of the heir to the Russian throne Paul. At the same time, the local art academy awarded the title of professor to the master.
Until 1791, the artist continued to paint cityscapes, until serious health problems forced him to quit his hobby. In need and hardship, after a month of painful suffering from a stomach illness, on January 1, 1793, Francesco Guardi died in his native Venice, where he was buried. His unsold paintings and workshop were inherited by his son Giacomo, who continued the family dynasty of painters.
The most famous paintings by Francesco Guardi
Among the many fine works of the Italian master of painting, there are many skillful masterpieces. And yet, the most famous paintings by Francesco Guardi are:
- The Saint Who Worships the Eucharist (1739) is the first work of the artist whose authorship has been reliably established. One of the few surviving paintings of the religious genre of the master, painted while working together in the family workshop with his older brother.
- The Miracle of the Dominican Saint (1763) is one of the negligible pieces of Guardi’s works created outside Venice. The painter painted this picture on the island of Murano the center of the production of the famous Venetian glass by order of the abbot of the local church. The painting depicts the moment of the miraculous rescue of the monks by Saint Hyacinth during a flood.
- “Fantastic Arch with Human Figures” (1770) is a unique urban landscape in the work of the master, in which the features of the everyday genre are clearly visible. The view of the fictional arch attracts the attention of the audience much less than the figures of several people busy with their daily activities.
- The Fire at the Oil Terminal in San Marcuola (1789) is a painting based on the real catastrophic events that took place in Venice. The painter managed to masterfully portray the insignificance of people against the background of the raging elements of fire, ruthlessly destroying city buildings.
Francesco Guardi was a talented Italian master of urban landscape, but he never managed to reach the level of recognition of the great Canaletto. All his life he was in the shadow of the glory of his famous countryman and only in the era of impressionism did his work finally receive a worthy assessment from critics and the public.