Born into an influential family of Venetian painters, Bartolomeo Vivarini studied under his brother Antonio, with whom he collaborated after 1450. He probably trained in Padua as well, absorbing that school's style of elaborate detail and linearity. Bartolomeo's highly colored art also shows the influence of the elegant Gentile da Fabriano. The Vivarini workshop, based in the island city of Murano near Venice, specialized in carefully composed, highly finished polyptychs. The Catholic Church encouraged painting that created profound religious emotion in its flock, and Bartolomeo's works did just that. Contemplative rather than dramatic, his saints also suggest a nervous interior life and psychological intensity.
Bartolomeo's first independent dated work is from 1459, and his practice developed rapidly thereafter. By the end of the 1470s, he had cornered the market for altarpieces in Venice, alternating between the Gothic style of figures against gold backgrounds and the newer Renaissance convention of setting figures against a landscape or interior view. During the 1480s, when Bartolomeo's style became increasingly linear and spare, his clientele shifted west, to small towns around Bergamo. Bartolomeo's last dated work is a triptych of 1491. Alvise Vivarini, Antonio's son but possibly Bartolomeo's pupil, carried on the family workshop.