From man to the world: landscape painting
For centuries and up to 1600 the painting placed the human figure at the center. Portraits, religious and mythological themes certainly also included the landscape, but only as a background, as a useful theater to bring out the human subjects protagonists of the scene.
The first to draw a landscape without human beings, just to make it rain in the wet, is the usual Leonardo da Vinci in one of his drawings. Durer also creates landscapes without men, but in both cases they are not paintings, but studies, perhaps preparatory to paintings where then in the foreground there will be a human figure.
It is up to the Dutch to inaugurate this genre aided by the fact that they do not have to (or be able to, due to religious constraints) sacred subjects. And with Gaspar Van Wittel we can admire real landscapes and elevated views that are the exclusive subject of the painting.
There is still one step to take: to give dignity and meaning to this kind of paintings.
Giovanni Antonio Canal, who we all know as Canaletto, who “nomen omen” is from Venice, takes care of it. Canaletto uses all the technical possibilities of the time to capture reality exactly as it is.
No poetic discourse, no story in symbols and no religious re-enactment: simply what Canaletto sees in his paintings: the intent is "objective" reality.
Of course, Canaletto's mastery of the brush and attention to detail make him a champion of his kind. With all the differences that the circumstance imposes, we could define him as the first "photographer" in history.
This type of painting immediately met the favor of the patrons and Canaletto became rich and famous. Those who cannot travel commission a "view" and those who travel take home the representation of the place they have visited as we did some time ago with postcards.
Today we are content to fill ourselves with "selfies" or images captured with the mobile phone that often it would be better ... not to see.
Andrea Giuseppe Fadini