Pietro Longhi Biography | Oil Paintings

11-5-1701 Venice, ITA – 5-8-1785 Venice, ITA

Longhi, Pietro

Pietro Longhi's first major work was an altarpiece for the church of San Pellegrino in 1732. In 1734, he completed frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the hall in Ca' Sagredo, representing the Death of the Giants. In the late 1730s, he began to specialize in the small-scale genre works painting subjects and events of everyday life in Venice, for which he would become known and viewed in the future as the Venetian William Hogarth.

Large portions of Pietro Longhipaintings show Venetians at play, one example being the crowd of people gawking at a stunning Indian rhinoceros. Clara the Rhinoceros was brought to the Netherlands in 1741 by a Dutch sea captain and taken to Venice in 1751. Longhi painted two of these oil paintings, identical except for the unmasked portraits of two men. This painting depicts the sensational exhibition of the exotic animal that became a celebrated European attraction, a text commemorating the event is displayed on the right-hand side of the composition. Longhi's image, in addition to the brutish bulk of the rhinoceros (whose impressive feces he also included in the painting), conveys the excitement of the spectators who attended these shows.

Other paintings chronicle the daily activities such as the gambling parlors (Ridotti) that proliferated in the eighteenth century and most of the people in his genre paintings are hidden behind Venetian Carnival masks. In the 1750s, Pietro Longhi, like Crespi before him, was commissioned to paint seven oil paintings documenting the seven Catholic sacraments.

Beginning in 1763 Pietro Longhi was the Director of the Academy of Drawing and Carving, and he began to paint portraiture, with the help of his son, Alessandro.

Celebrated genre canvases were produced by other contemporary artists in Italy such as Gaspare Traversi and Giuseppe Maria Crespi. Pietro Longhi was one of very few painters in Venice that had depicted the people and social satire inside of homes and palaces. If Giovanni Antonio Canal Canaletto and Francesco Guardi showed us Venice from the outside, Longhi showed us Venice from the inside.

Art Movement: Baroque Art
Artists Influencing Pietro Longhi: Antonio Balestra, Giuseppe Maria Crespi
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.

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