Francesco Guardi

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Guardi, Francesco

(fränchās`kō gwär`dē), 1712–93, Venetian landscape and architectural painter. A follower of Canaletto, he developed a freer style of great brilliance. Guardi's work ranges from elaborate architectural scenes to spontaneous and delightful capricci, both in painting and drawings. His many charming landscapes are in the galleries of London, Paris, Venice, and Boston. The Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., each have several.


See monograph by V. Moschini (tr. 1957); J. Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Francesco Guardi (1951).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Guardi, Francesco


Baptized Oct. 5, 1712, in Venice; died there Jan. 1, 1793. Italian landscape painter of the Venetian school. Studied with his brother Giovanni Antonio Guardi.

At the beginning of his career Guardi made freehand copies of the works of Italian masters of the 16th and 17th centuries and painted landscapes and pictures on religious and mythical subjects in the manner of A. Magnasco and M. Ricci. At the end of the 1760’s, Guardi devoted himself exclusively to landscape painting, doing 12 landscapes after the drawings of A. Canaletto, engraved by G. B. Brustolon, depicting buildings and squares in Venice during festivals (the Louvre, Paris). The flowering of Guardi’s talent came in the 1780’s and 1790’s, when the artist’s creative method developed. While working on the veduta landscapes (documentarily exact urban landscapes), which are beloved in Venice, and the capriccios (imaginary architectural landscapes), Guardi created a new type of landscape, based on the artist’s direct visual impressions and lyrical experiences. Abandoning the solemn landscape with the orderly “stage setting” arrangement, Guardi introduced elements of spontaneity, spatial freedom, and dynamism into composition. Finding his inspiration in simple, ordinary subjects, he revealed the subtle poetry of everyday life in Venice, its little sunlit courts, its canals and lagoons with gondolas gliding over them, and its palaces and quays with holiday crowds (Venetian Court, at the A. S. Pushkin Museum of Fine Art in Moscow; Rio dei Mendicanti, at the Carrara Academy Gallery in Bergamo, The Ascent of the Balloon, 1784, at the Berlin-Dahlem Picture Gallery; and The Gray Lagoon, at the Poldi-Pezzoli Museum, in Milan). The painting manner of the mature Guardi is distinguished by freedom and virtuosity. Using light, dynamic paint strokes Guardi recreated the tremulous movement of color spots and outlines dissolving into the ethereal mist and transparent air, saturated with light and moisture. Guardi was an outstanding draftsman. His drawings with their light, ethereal, broken lines are distinguished by fine gradations of light and shade.

Guardi’s work, which embodied the traditions of many centuries of Venetian painting and anticipated the plein air quests of the 19th-century landscape painters, was not appreciated by his contemporaries. The discovery of the artist’s genuine importance did not occur until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Nikitiuk, O. Franchesko Gvardi. Moscow, 1968.
Fiocco, G. Guardi. [Milan] 1966.
I problemi guardeschi. Venice, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.