Giovanni Bellini, officially considered the founder of the Venetian school of painting

Giovanni Bellini
Founder of the Venetian School of Painting

[Regions of Italy]

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"The most modern of the ancients and the most ancient of the moderns"

In Venice, most visitors concentrate on their three "T"s: Titian, Tintoretto and Tiepolo. But there is another great artist who is sometimes overlooked, even though he is officially considered the founder of the Venetian school of painting.

Partly because he lived so long (circa 1430-1516), Giovanni Bellini was in many ways the protagonist of a profound change in Venetian art. When he was born, the Republic was in the throes of grafting a late Gothic style onto the city's existing layer of Byzantine splendor. Giovanni spent his childhood working as an apprentice in the very successful workshop of his father Jacopo, during the years when the decoration of St. Mark's Basilica was in full swing.

Then, in 1453, his elder sister married Andrea Mantegna, one of the most advanced students of perspective in all of northern Italy. Giovanni was deeply impressed by his brother-in-law's evolutionary work, just as he was later amazed by the ability of Piero della Francesca and Antonello da Messina to place groups of people within complex three-dimensional settings, something that had been virtually unknown just a few years before.

Among Venetian artists, Bellini led the way in fostering the style of "tonalism," which gave less importance to design and graphics while highlighting the tones of light and color. By the time Titian was starting his career, the elderly Bellini was breaking new ground again by adding mythological and allegorical scenes to the religious ones that had dominated the art of the fifteenth century. Never one to consider his career complete, he painted his first female nude at the age of 85!

Naked Young Woman in
Front of the Mirror (1515)

Portrait of Giovanni Bellini
by Tiziano Vecellio (1511-1512)
Official Painter of Venice for thirty years, Giovanni Bellini had an active career that spanned six decades and produced at least two hundred works of art, mostly on canvas. As you travel around the region of Veneto, stop in whenever you can to see the creations of the man whom Albrecht Dürer considered Venice's greatest painter.

Here is a partial list of Bellini's works on display in Italy. Click on the pictures to see them enlarged.

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[Regions of Italy]