Italian High Renaissance Painter, ca.1430-1516
(b ?1431-6; d Venice, 29 Nov 1516). Painter and draughtsman, son of (1) Jacopo Bellini. Although the professional needs of his family background may have encouraged him to specialize at an early date in devotional painting, by the 1480s he had become a leading master in all types of painting practised in 15th-century Venice. Later, towards the end of his long life, he added the new genres of mythological painting and secular allegory to his repertory of subject-matter. His increasing dominance of Venetian art led to an enormous expansion of his workshop after c. 1490; and this provided the training-ground not only for his numerous shop-hands and imitators (generically known as Belliniani) but probably also for a number of major Venetian painters of the next generation. Throughout his career, Giovanni showed an extraordinary capacity for absorbing a wide range of artistic influences, both from within Venetian tradition and from outside. He also oversaw a technical revolution in the art of painting, involving the gradual abandonment of the traditional Italian use of egg tempera in favour of the technique of oil painting pioneered in the Netherlands. It was thanks to Giovanni Bellini that the Venetian school of painting was transformed during the later 15th century from one mainly of local significance to one with an international reputation. He thus set the stage for the triumphs of Venetian painting in the 16th century and for the central contribution that Venice was to make to the history of European art.