Marco Ricci was born in Belluno in 1676. He received his earliest training in Venice from his uncle Sebastiano (1659-1734), who had returned to the city in 1696. Marco's principal training, however, was not as a figure painter, and from the beginning he is likely to have had contact with the few, primarily foreign, landscape and view painters then active in Venice. Equally important in his formation was his study of Titian's landscape paintings and drawings, as recounted by the biographer Zanetti. Throughout his life he made annual sketching trips to Belluno to refresh his memory of actual landscape settings.
Little is known for certain about Marco's earliest career, but he appears to have begun collaborating with Sebastiano and may have accompanied his uncle to Milan and Rome. Early sources recounted that Marco killed a gondolier in a drunken brawl and was forced to flee Venice. He is reported to have studied with an unnamed landscape painter in Dalmatia, but this may have been in fact Antonio Francesco Peruzzini of Ancona (c. 1668-?), a landscape painter known to have worked with Sebastiano in Bologna and Milan. Scholars have long seen an initial influence from Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) in Marco's earliest landscapes and it may have been Peruzzini who first introduced Marco to the art of Salvator Rosa. It has also been suggested that Marco traveled to Naples, with a stop in Rome, to study among Rosa's school. Scarpa Sonino, on the other hand, has questioned the influence of Rosa, and seen much of Marco's early landscape style coming from northern artists such as Johan Anton Eismann (c. 1613-1698) and especially Pietro Mulier (il cavalier Tempesta, c. 1637-1701).
In 1706-1707 Marco and Sebastiano worked together on the decoration of Palazzo Marucelli in Florence. It may have been at this time, or perhaps earlier in Milan, that Marco first encountered the Genoese painter Alessandro Magnasco (1667-1749), with whom he is known to have collaborated on occasion. After a brief return to Venice, Marco travelled in 1708 with fellow Venetian Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1749) to England, where they collaborated on stage sets for the Italian opera in London's Haymarket and on other projects. After a dispute with Pellegrini, Marco returned to Venice in 1711 and brought his uncle back to London with him, perhaps in hopes of securing the lucrative commission for the dome of Saint Paul's Cathedral. Marco produced landscapes and other vedute for the English market and continued to collaborate with his uncle. They returned to Venice in 1715-1716, probably together, by way of Paris and the Netherlands, where Marco had stopped on previous journeys.
The period from 1716 until his death in Venice in 1729 was one of intense activity during which Marco collaborated frequently with Sebastiano and expanded the sphere of his own activity to include gouaches on kidskin and etchings. Although he continued to paint other landscape subjects, Marco seems to have turned increasingly to depictions of ruins populated with small figures sometimes painted by Sebastiano. These paintings do not represent actual archeological sites, but are capriccios composed from a repertory of elements--obelisks, pyramids, sections of temples and colonnades, fallen architectural elements, statues, funeral urns, and vases. Such elements are often arranged in planes or as a screen in the middle ground, with views into luminous distances, reflecting his frequent work for the stage.
Marco is known to have begun painting ruins quite early in his career and it has been argued that his conception of ruins depends upon direct experience of Rome and its monuments. No trip to Rome is documented, although Marco may have gone there during his youth or less likely around 1720. Like his uncle's in history painting, Marco's accomplishments were important in the subsequent development of eighteenth-century Venetian landscape and capriccio painting. Painters such as Canaletto (1697-1768) and the Guardi drew upon his subtle and varied light effects and his masterful combination of real and imaginary elements. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Zanetti, Anton Maria. Della pittura veneziana e delle oper pubbliche de' veneziani maestri. 1771. Reprint. Venice, 1972: 442-443.
Pilo, Giuseppe Maria and Rodolfo Pallucchini. Marco Ricci. Exh. cat. Palazzo Sturm, Bassano del Grappa. Venice, 1963.
Bolaffi 9 (1975): 380-384.
Delneri, Annalia. "Marco Ricci." In Capricci veneziani del Settecento. Edited by Dario Succio. Turin, 1988: 128-156.
Scarpa Sonino, Annalisa. Marco Ricci. Milan, 1991.
Succi, Dario, and Annalia Delneri. Marco Ricci e il paesaggio veneto del settecento. Exh. cat. Palazzo Crepadona, Belluno. Milan, 1993.
De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 219-220.