Stonemason's Yard

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Canaletto, Stonemason's Yard, 1726

In the year of 1720, a 23-year-old young man came back from Roma to his beloved hometown, Venice, after things went little rough in the sets of Scarlatti's new opera. Unlike his father, the experience as a theatrical scenery painter was not all that delightful; for him, it was a little hard to adjust to working with theater people. Luckily, after, as he said later down the road in his life, "solemnly excommunicated the theater," he soon realized his talent in painting. As it turned out that the Roman sojourn was not all that fruitless, the experience of scenery painting gave him a thorough grounding in perspective, draughtsmanship, and architecture. So when he returned to Venice, he soon dove into the art of realistic view paintings. Shortly, a formerly-unknown name was mentioned more and more frequently among the patrons and finicky collectors, and compared alongside with the already famous Carlevaris.

Canaletto, a young painter specialized in Venetian townscapes, who could make the sun “shine" in his picture, attracted many eyes sated by the French Rococo style. Derived from his early apprenticeship in scene painting, the theatricality that Canaletto created in his painting provided the viewer with the exact amount of immediacy. Such as in his Stonemason's Yard, the close observation of daily life, expressed through the exaggerated foreshortening and great contrast of light and shadow, created a scene provincial, yet with the aesthetic merit that everyday life could not provide.

In the 1720s, before Canaletto turned his frame to more celebrated sites for the tourist market, we see a romantic, perhaps bit cavalier young painter, setting up his easel in the streets of Venice, among the working people and great architecture, conveying an easy and almost poetic mood of the townscapes. Well, appreciate and cherish that much as you can, in art and in life, because like Canaletto, it all slipped right through the brushes and never came back.

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