One of the most famous Venetian painters, Canaletto is famed for his panoramic paintings of the Grand Canal. His paintings capture not only the architectural facet of Venice but more significantly, the social aspect. The paintings have captured and preserved the ethos of Venetian society in 17thcentury, their customs and festivities, their pleasure choices and business dealings. Canaletto’s paintings project Venice not only as a grand city but a culturally endowed living society.
I have been captivated by Canaletto ever since I was introduced to his paintings at a visit to the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace nearly a decade ago. So, when I chanced upon the paintings of Shirwadkar at Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, I felt like I had stumbled upon the Indian Canaletto. His depiction of the ancient city of Benaras along the Ganges, with its tall facades and ornate galleries was fascinating. But it was the depiction of social element of a completely different society, their religious customs and interactions, set in a vastly different time context that mesmerized me.
Two different artists, two different places and times, two vastly different cultures; but a common message that a city, however beautiful, is empty and lifeless without its society.