Francesco Guardi (1712 – 1793) was an Italian painter from Venice. He is considered to be one of the most important Venetian view painters of the eighteenth century, known for his luminous and atmospheric paintings.
Guardi was born in Venice, the son of Domenico Guardi, a wealthy masonry contractor who died when Francesco was only eleven years old. Francesco Guardi and his brothers, Gianantonio and Niccolo, were then raised by their uncle Gian Antonio Guardi.
As a young man, Francesco Guardi began his career as an apprentice to an art dealer and frame maker. He later worked for a printing company and was a pupil of the Venetian painter Antonio Visentini.
In 1734, Guardi started to paint seriously and he soon developed his own distinctive style. His early work was influenced by the great Venetian masters of the seventeenth century, such as Veronese and Tintoretto. However, Guardi quickly moved away from this style and developed a more light-hearted and spontaneous approach to painting.
Guardi’s work was very popular with the Venetian aristocracy and he soon became one of the most fashionable painters in Venice. He was also much sought after by foreign visitors to the city. In 1763, Guardi was commissioned by the British ambassador to Venice, Lord Whitworth, to paint a series of views of the city.
These paintings were so successful that Whitworth commissioned Guardi to paint another series, this time of views of Venice from the lagoon. These paintings were exhibited in London in 1766 and were an enormous success.
In 1770, Guardi was appointed official painter to the Doge of Venice, Giovanni Maria Cornaro. This was a great honor and gave Guardi access to the Venetian elite. He painted many portraits of Venetian notables, as well as a series of views of Venice, which were very popular with tourists.
Guardi’s work was hugely influential on nineteenth-century painters of views of Venice, such as J.M.W. Turner and John Singer Sargent.
Guardi died in Venice in 1793. His son, Gianantonio Guardi, continued his father’s work and was also a successful painter. Francesco Guardi’s grandson, Domenico Guardi, was also an important landscape painter.