Comparison between Canaletto and Pissarro

Pissarro painted more cityscapes than any other major Impressionist, and in this way harked back to the tradition of the Old Master, Canaletto, who died in 1768. By comparing Canaletto and compositionally similar paintings by Pissarro we see how the Impressionist painter borrows and breaks from tradition.

Morning, Overcast Day, Rouen, 1896
For Pissarro, the ships, machines and factories define a huge space in which figures appear minuscule.

Pissarro's sky and puffs of steam and smoke contrast with the warm light that characterizes Canaletto's paintings. For Canaletto, the urban space is almost mathematically constructed, with no surprises. Pissarro's Rouen, in contrast, shimmers so that the viewer's eye cannot rest or wander at leisure.

Both artists viewed cities from above and compressed their compositions into panoramic views. Both loved the urbabn- for Canaletto, it was the royal entrance into Venice, religious processions or festivals. For Pissarro, it was Mardi Gras in Paris, popular parades, market days in Rouen or Dieppe, traffic on the Pont-Neuf. Pissarro was more focused on movement and on images of work and economic growth. Canaletto was more attracted to urban order.

Pissarro thrived on a high level of social energy in his paintings. Traffic, motion, work, transport, exchange, unloading, loading, moving, buying, selling, walking, riding - this busy bustle dominates Pissarro's urban views--the architecture is there to frame human activities.

The Louvre, 1902

Boulevard Montmartre: Afternoon, Sunshine, 1897

View of the Piazza at San Marco (Venice)

Campo San Zampolo (Venice)

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