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Cityscape Prints

Topographical images flourished in the Netherlands and Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries as a direct response to an increase in travel among a growing wealthy class. In Venice, artists captured the cityscape against the canals using etching and engraving methods, selling the picturesque prints to tourists.

City and townscape prints had only ever formed the background to religious or mythological images and were rarely the primary subject matter, but they became a popular collector’s item. A growing interest in cityscapes and urban scenes developed in the 19th and 20th century as a response to rapid industrialization in Europe and the United States.

As lithography appeared at the turn of the 18th century, artists often chose this method to capture the effects of urbanization. Artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Josef Stella, Charles Sheeler were inspired by industry and often represented cityscapes in their work.


Quick Facts

  • Printmakers in 17th century Italy created cityscape images called veduta. These images are typically of towns viewed from a distance showing major architectural landmarks. One of the most famous is Giambattisti Piranese’s Vendute di Roma, depicting the modern buildings and ruins of the city in great detail
  • In the 18th century, the Italian artists Guardi and Cannaletto developed imaginary cityscapes combining architectural landmarks from cities in different part of the world in one print, such as a London cathedral on the banks of Venetian canals
  • During that time in the Netherlands, cityscapes were created to show clean streets and impressive landmarks for townspeople interested in showing their civic pride

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