Born: 1701; Venice, Italy
Died: 1785; Venice, Italy
Art Movement: Rococo
Genre: genre painting
Pietro Longhi was a Venetian painter, who mastered the portrayal of scenes of everyday Venetian life. Born Pietro Falca, he changed his last name to Longhi when he began painting. As a child, his father encouraged his natural talent for drawing, and he later studied under the acclaimed history painter Antonio Balestra in Verona. Like his early mentor, Longhi began his painting career with history paintings, depicting grand historical themes. After the unsuccessful reception of his painting Fall of the Giants, Longhi transitioned to painting small interior scenes under the tutelage of a painter of contemporary life, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, turning to them completely by 1741. Rather than paint the vast architectural glory of Venice or decorative schemes like his contemporaries, Longhi became the chronicler of contemporary Venetian life. A such, almost all of his paintings were outside of the mainstream of Venetian art, which was filled with grand historical and religious cycles.
Longhi was extremely popular during his lifetime, painting bright scenes with a light social comedy. Many show Venetians at play, and chronicle the daily activities of a typical Venetian citizen, such as going to the barber’s, duck hunting, gambling, or watching an exhibition at the zoo. Longhi was also a very accomplished draftsman, and many of his drawings are beautiful for their own sake. Many of the drawings were not done as sketches for future paintings, but for the artist’s own enjoyment.