Giovanni Bellini

  • about 1431/1436 - 1516
  • Artist
  • Italian

Writing from Italy in 1506, Albrecht Dürer observed that Giovanni Bellini was "very old, but still the best in painting." Giovanni created the soft, luminous art of saturated color that brought Venetian painting into the Renaissance and helped Venice rival Florence as the center of artistic production. His father Jacopo headed a successful workshop where Giovanni and his brother Gentile painted until about 1470. The precisely organized, linear style of brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna was an early influence as well. Around 1475 the Sicilian Antonello da Messina brought oil painting to Venice, and Giovanni soon switched to the new technique. His vision remained contemplative and poetic, but his style became warmer and more luminous. Giovanni showed that landscape could establish mood rather than just acting as a backdrop, and he integrated figures harmoniously into his landscapes.

Giovanni's large workshop produced altarpieces, devotional works, and sensitive, compelling portraits, as well as highly influential half-length Madonnas. Through his workshop's activity, Giovanni directly or indirectly influenced the Venetian painters of his and the next generation, including Sebastiano del Piombo, Lorenzo Lotto, and Vittore Carpaccio. His work also deeply impressed Fra Bartolommeo, who visited Venice in 1507. He spent his career exploring new ideas, including those of such illustrious pupils as Titian and Giorgione.