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As is true of all that comes under the heading of 'art', beauty is in the eye of the beholder and appreciation of paintings is a very subjective matter. Having said that, one can also set aside personal taste for a moment and consider the question of ability as important in itself.

A wild splash of colour on an otherwise empty canvas may well be appealing in the right setting but its creation requires more flair than genius or effort. Such a picture is unlikely ever to become an 'old master' in a future century - or perhaps it might, given the strange viewpoints of some art 'critics' but, by then, none of us will be around to find out, thank goodness!

Artists whose works, in my opinion, will always merit special attention include:

Giovanni A. Canaletto; François Boucher; Michelangelo Buonarroti; Thomas Gainsborough; Giovanni Paolo Pannini; Rembrandt Van Rijn; George Romney; George Stubbs; Titian; Claude Joseph Vernet and Leonardo da Vinci, amongst many others. 

It was my privilege to own one of Canaletto's greatest works, and certainly one of his largest, a breathtaking painting of the Grand Canal, for a period of three weeks in 1988, before it was acquired by a monarch. Living with such a masterpiece is indescribably pleasurable. The Grand Canal was a popular subject with wealthy tourists who commissioned works from Canaletto. Other artists, too, have felt impelled to commit the view to canvas.

pa_margc_01.jpg (58351 bytes)Michele Marieschi (1710 -1743), painted this 58.25 cm x 85.625 cm view of Santa Maria della Salute across the Grand Canal in Venice in oil on canvas, around 1740. The work was attributed to Canaletto by the Royal Academy in London as early as 1872 and was sold at auction by Christie's as such in 1891 and again in 1953. Less restrained than Canaletto, Marieschi used perspective in a slightly dramatized and exaggerated manner and his palette was rather more atmospheric too. 

pa_begc_01.jpg (51919 bytes)In 1879, this 61.25 cm x 98.75 cm oil on canvas painting was also mistakenly sold as being by Giovanni Antonio Canaletto. 
Later, 'experts' announced that the artist was, in fact, Canaletto's nephew, Bernardo Bellotti (1721 - 1780) who painted the picture around 1742.

Former owners of these paintings, and many others like them, were no less happy in the belief that they owned a work by Canaletto than they would have been if they really did, since the beauty and quality of the work was just as fine and the difference in price was not that vast. Today, the provenance of a painting is all-important because of the huge disparity in value between the works of different artists.

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pa_wsdbial_01.jpg (22783 bytes)'A Dark Bay Thoroughbred In A Landscape', painted some time between 1762 and 1768 by George Stubbs, came up for auction in July 2003. The pre-auction estimate was between GB£ 400,000 and GB£ 600,000. One wonders how Stubbs would feel, were he to be aware, almost a quarter of a millennium later, of the value that would be placed upon his works... 

On a lighter note, if you are an art-lover with a liking for history in general and hats in particular, then you can satisfy three passions at once by taking a look at a page entitled 'Hats in Art History' !

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