Iconic Canaletto Painting returns to Wales

Tuesday, May 7, 2024
Iconic Canaletto Painting returns to Wales

Canaletto’s masterpiece – The Stonemason’s Yard – is returning to Wales as part of the National Gallery's anniversary celebrations.

The exhibition at the National Library of Wales tells the incredible story of this painting and how it came to Wales as a ‘refugee’ from bombing during the Second World War to be safely protected in the cavernous Manod slate mines.

Canaletto was born in 1697 and raised in the city of Venice, and was the most famous Venetian painter of his day. He was celebrated for his vedute (views), which evocatively captured Venice’s dazzling light, shimmering water and the crumbling plaster of its buildings. In the 1730s and 1740s his pictures became extremely popular with Grand Tourists – British aristocrats travelling through Italy, for whom his views of Venice were a must-have souvenir.

The Stonemason’s Yard is unusual within Canaletto’s oeuvre. An early work, it was probably painted for a Venetian patron, as the scene of daily life it depicts is unlike the artist’s celebrated views of the Grand Canal, regattas and festival days. Instead of pomp and pageantry, the painting presents ordinary people. The Campo San Vidal had been temporarily turned into a stonemason’s yard, strewn with blocks of stone, tools and figures at work. Today, this area has changed almost beyond recognition.

This painting and the wider Idyll and Industry exhibition coincides with the National Gallery’s 200th anniversary. The National Treasures project celebrates this special occasion by placing twelve masterpieces from the National Gallery’s collection in museums and art galleries across Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This exhibition will be the only opportunity to view one of these masterpieces in Wales.

The Idyll and Industry exhibition will also display Welsh landscapes from the National Art Collection and will explore the artistic and thematic links between The Stonemason’s Yard and the scenery of Wales. A rich tapestry of the idyllic and the industrial, Wales’ vistas have been a source of inspiration for many artists. The exhibition will include works by classical artists such as Richard Wilson, J. M. W. Turner and Penry Williams alongside more modern works by artists like Graham Sutherland, Mary Lloyd Jones and Ernest Zobole. 

The exhibition will be on display at the National Library of Wales from 10 May until 7 September 2024.

Main Image :The Stonemason’s Yard, painted in about 1725. Photograph: The National Gallery, London

Stephanie Cime

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