Venice in the Age of Canaletto

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Paintings by Giovanni Antonio Canal—better known as Canaletto—one of Venice’s most important artists, will be among the objects in the exhibition Venice in the Age of Canaletto, on view at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from February 14 to May 9, 2010.

Giovanni Antonio Canaletto (Italian, 1697–1768). The Grand Canal from Campo di San Vio, 1730–1735. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

This exhibition offers a chance to see Canaletto's work within the rich and evocative environment of eighteenth-century Venice

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Paintings by Giovanni Antonio Canal—better known as Canaletto—one of Venice’s most important artists, will be among the objects in the exhibition Venice in the Age of Canaletto, on view at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from February 14 to May 9, 2010.

Inspired by Canaletto’s marvelous and expansive painting The Grand Canal from Campo di San Vio—a gift to the Brooks from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation—this exhibition celebrates the artist within the context of Venice during the city’s last, and most opulent, artistic efflorescence. This period, which spans the eighteenth century, saw the city transformed into a glittering destination for wealthy European tourists on the Grand Tour. Venice’s exotic setting, gambling dens, grand pageants, and famous carnival season were enhanced by its extraordinary cultural heritage.

Canaletto is best known for his paintings that document immediately recognizable views of the city. Yet, for all their ability to capture Venice’s modern cityscape, his work is cool and detached, standing in stark contrast to the richly colored and exuberant work of his contemporaries Giambattista Tiepolo, Sebastiano Ricci, and Francesco Guardi, whose paintings evocatively capture the decadence, splendor, and beauty of city that was known as the “Drawing Room of Europe.” The tension between these contrasting artistic styles is the focal point of the exhibition’s examination of Venice during Canaletto’s time and the cultural movements surrounding his development as a vedutista, or view painter.

“Because of their beguiling simplicity and almost photographic realism, we all too often think of Canaletto’s paintings outside their historic and cultural context,” explains Dr. Stanton Thomas, Associate Curator of the Brooks. “This exhibition offers a chance to see his work within the rich and evocative environment of eighteenth-century Venice.”

A collaborative effort between the Brooks and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, Venice in the Age of Canaletto offers a rare look at sumptuous paintings, as well as prints, furniture, and textiles from the city’s golden age. Objects from the Brooks’ and the Ringling’s permanent collection will be complimented by approximately 40 loans from collections across the United States, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, National Gallery of Art, and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

As a complement to the exhibition, the Brooks has published a beautiful, fully illustrated catalogue, which will be available for purchase in the Museum Store. This volume includes essays by the curators and guest authors, William Barcham, Leslie and E.J. Johnson, as well as scholarly entries on all the objects in the exhibition. The exhibition also features a video component, created by Ralph Lieberman, which offers visitors the experience of a gondola ride on the grand Canal. A comprehensive audio tour will also be offered as part of museum admission.

Venice in the Age of Canaletto opens on Saturday, February 14 with a weekend of activities, tours, and a special lecture on Sunday, February 15 at 2pm by Max Marmor, President of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. For more information on opening weekend, please visit http://www.brooksmuseum.org.

This exhibition is curated by Associate Curator Stanton Thomas of the Brooks and Alexandra Libby, formerly of the Ringling Museum. It is organized by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in collaboration with John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and is made possible in part by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Venice in the Age of Canaletto is sponsored by the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, with additional support from The Doris and Hubert Kiersky Charitable Remainder Trust. Education programs are sponsored The Thomas W. Briggs Foundation. Family Day Sponsor is Carrier Corporation. The Brooks thanks its Community Partners: ArtsMemphis, The Hyde Family Foundations, The Tennessee Arts Commission, The Jeniam Foundation, and AutoZone.

Located in the heart of historic Overton Park in Midtown Memphis, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is the oldest and largest encyclopedic art museums in the state of Tennessee. The permanent collection of over 8,500 works of art includes African art, ancient works from Greece and Rome, Renaissance masterpieces from Italy, English portraiture, contemporary art, and a growing collection of photographs and regional art. In addition to showcasing its permanent collection, the Brooks also hosts several traveling exhibitions throughout the year, as well as a full calendar of dynamic programs for children and adults.

General admission for Venice in the Age of Canaletto: $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $3 for students, and free for children under six. Admission is always free for Brooks members. Free admission to all is offered every Wednesday. Advance exhibition tickets can be purchased online or at the Admissions desk during regular museum hours. Museum hours: Wednesday & Friday 10 am – 4 pm, Thursday 10 am – 8 pm, Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, and Sunday 11 am – 5 pm. The museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and major holidays. Free, on-site parking is available. The Brooks is accessible to individuals with disabilities. For information on this exhibition and all related programming, please call (901)544-6200, or visit http://www.brooksmuseum.org.

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