Paintings portraying the grandeur of Venice became popular at the dawn of modern tourism. British visitors on the Grand Tour created a demand for view paintings of celebrated sights and Venetian festivals to take home with them. Many gentlemen – so-called milordi – sought the works of Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto. His views went beyond topographical accuracy to capture the poetic play of light, water and architecture, unique to the experience of Venice. Prompted by declining tourism, in 1746 Canaletto moved to England, where he painted views of London, Oxford and other cities as well as the country seats of his patrons.
Canaletto’s successor in Venice, Francesco Guardi, brought a greater range of expression to view painting, stressing the atmospheric play of light and the frenetic activity of the city with elegant, free brushwork.