Bellini, Giovanni (1430?-1516). The founder of the
Venetian school of painting, Giovanni Bellini raised Venice to a center of
Renaissance 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: Giorgione (1477?-1510) and Titian (1488?-1576). His younger contemporary,
the German painter Albrecht Durer, wrote of Bellini in 1506: "He is very
old, and still he is the best painter of them all." Bellini died in Venice
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