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Monday, June 30, 2014

Bellini, Giovanni


The Feast of the Gods
1514
oil on canvas
170 x 188 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

Giovanni Bellini (c.1430-1516) was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Venice, Venetian painter, founder of the Venetian school of painting. He 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. Through the use of clear, slow-drying oil paints, he created deep, rich tints and detailed shadings. His sumptuous coloring and fluent, atmospheric landscapes had a great effect on the Venetian painting school. Little is known about his family. His father was a pupil of one of the leading 15th-century Gothic revival artists. He probably began his career as an assistant in the father's workshop.

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. He 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 and Titian. 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 in 1516.

Bellini's historical importance is immense. In his 65-year evolution as an artist, he brought Venetian painting from provincial backwardness into the forefront of Renaissance and the mainstream of Western art. Moreover, his personal orientations predetermined the special nature of Venice's contribution to that mainstream. These include his luminous colorism, his deep response to the natural world, and his warm humanity.