Giovanni Bellini (1430?–1516),
was the founder of the Venetian school of painting, Giovanni Bellini
raised Venice to a center of
art that rivaled Florence and Rome. He brought to painting a new degree
of realism, a new wealth of subject matter, and a new sensuousness in
form and color.
Giovanni Bellini was born in Venice, Italy, in about 1430. Little is known
about his family. His father, a painter, was a pupil of one of the leading
15th-century Gothic revival artists. Giovanni and his brother probably began
their careers as assistants in their father's workshop.
In his early pictures, Bellini worked with tempera, combining a severe and
rigid style with a depth of religious feeling and gentle humanity. From the
beginning he was a painter of natural light. In his earliest pictures the sky
is often reflected behind human figures in streaks of water that make
horizontal lines in narrow strips of landscape.
The Agony in the Garden
was the first of a series of Venetian landscape scenes that continued to develop
for the next century. Four triptychs (a triptych is a set of three panels
used as an altarpiece) in the Venice Accademia and two Pietas, both in Milan,
are all from this early period. Bellini's
St. Vincent Ferrer
altarpiece, which is still in the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice,
was painted in the mid-1470s.
In his later work Bellini achieved a unique religious and emotional unity
of expression. His method of using oil paint brought not only a greater
maturity but an individual style. He achieved a certain richness by layering
colors in new and varied ways.
In 1479 Bellini took his brother's place in continuing the painting of
great historical scenes in the Hall of the Great Council in Venice. During
that year and the next he devoted his time and energy to this project,
painting six or seven new canvases. These, his greatest works, were destroyed
by fire in 1577.
As his career continued, Bellini became one of the greatest landscape
painters. His ability to portray outdoor light was so skillful that the
viewer can tell not only the season of the year but also almost the hour of
the day. Bellini lived to see his own school of painting achieve dominance
and acclaim. His influence carried over to his pupils, two of whom became
better known than he was:
(1488?-1576). His younger contemporary, the German painter
wrote of Bellini in 1506:
"He is very old, and still he is the best painter of them all."
Bellini died in Venice in 1516.