Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768) known as Canaletto, and in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century also sometimes called Canaletti. He was born and died in Venice. Through his family he had the status of 'origine civis Venetus', and as such he was entitled to use the coat of arms of the Da Canal family. He trained with his father Bernardo Canal, (1674 - 1744), a 'pittore da teatro', or scene painter, and member (and later Prior) of the Venetian Collegio dei Pittori. Canaletto abandoned the theatre to become a view painter, a category even lower in status than landscape painter. He was not a founding member of the Academy of Venice started in 1750, and formally established in 1756. He failed to secure election to it at the beginning of 1763, and was elected only at the second attempt in 1763.

Canaletto's paintings of Venetian views were collected by British aristocracy, and since George III in 1762, by the British Royal Family. As Ruskin later said, 'The great people always bought Canaletto, not Prout' ( Works, 14.373). Ruskin's positive comments on Canaletto were few. Ruskin's depreciation of Canaletto, like his depreciation of Claude, Gaspard Poussin and Salvator Rosa, derives from his conviction that Canaletto had 'fettered' the perceptions of those who admired his work. 'Determined depreciation' was necessary because of Canaletto's popularity in England combined with Canaletto's reputation for the truth meant that his influence was widespread and malign (see Ruskin and the Italian School). It is sometimes suggested that Ruskin's ignorance of Canaletto's work and of the development of Canaletto's style make his judgements of Canaletto unreliable.