- Full Name:
- Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco
- Date of Birth:
- circa 1478
- Date of Death:
- Oil, Wood
- Figure, Landscapes
- Art Movement:
- Castelfranco Veneto, Italy
When Florence was enjoying the fame thrust upon it by Leonardo Da Vinci, there was a humble Venetian artist by the name of Giorgione creating some of his own masterpieces in Venice. Surpassing the achievements of previous legends - the Bellinis - Giorgione was clever, versatile and, of course, a world class painter.
A man of modest origins, Giorgione was a pupil of design in his early years and his study of nature led him to develop an overwhelming passion for natural beauty. He decided that everything he produced would be used to showcase the beauty of nature and did this with consummate ease and brilliance.
Such was his amazing talent that he created forms of the living that were so harmonious and carefully produced using fresco or oil that it was suggested he infused life into his work and figures. This set him apart from almost all the painters that had gone before him - and left many after in great awe of his works.
Information about Giorgione and his life is limited. It is known that from a small town by the name of Castelfranco Veneto, he moved to Venice, around 40km away, very early in life and undertook an apprenticeship with Giovanni Bellini.
His early years were spent working in Venice and painting mostly Madonnas. One of his works from this time is said to be a self-portrait, as he represented David with shoulder-length hair and other features resembling the artist.
Such was the short life of Giorgione that when his most productive years - around 1500 - were during the middle and end of his career. But, at this point, his talent was renowned across the city, and his reputation was growing across Italy. With this in mind the artist began earning commissions for portraits of many important people, including;
• Giovanni Borgherini's sons
• Gonsalvo Ferrante
• Lionardo Loredano
• Giovanni da Castel Bolognese (created for his father-in-law)
As well as this, Giorgione was employed to paint frescoes for the interior of the German Merchants' Hall (Fondaco dei Tedeschi) in Venice. This work followed on from his commissions at Casa Soranzo and Casa Grimani alli Servi, other notable institutions.
Giorgione is well-known for being a romantic and a great musician as well as a fantastic artist. He met the unmistakable Leonardo da Vinci in 1500 when the Renaissance painter visited Venice. Many critics see Giorgione's work in Tuscan painting and his advances as similar to that of da Vinci's some 20 years previous.
Whilst Giorgione was a student of Bellini, Vasari suggests that he was also Titian's master which would further explain his influence over the following generation of artists. Living together, Titian and Giorgione worked on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi frescoes and it is believed Titian completed some of his master's works following his death.
A visionary, Giorgione created a new range of subjects for art - from pictures without a story to portraits and altarpieces he is known by critics as an innovative genius. It is believed that he died of the plague in October 1510, leaving a lasting legacy.
A pupil of Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione was taught to use his landscapes to convey mood and enhance meaning. Bellini's influence is also apparent in Giorgione's use of light, atmosphere and color to give distinctive character and composition to his artworks.
The use of landscapes had increased globally at this point in time, with many historians pointing to the Industrial Revolution in England as the trigger. Urban centers were developed in exchange for lush countryside and this led to poetry and painting centered on nature.
Giorgione not only adopted his master's style but also improved it. He began to use greater lyricism, monumentality and severity in his paintings. Using colors for representation, he built up canvases using layers of complementary colors and created a haze from a simple palette that distinguished him as a painter.
In many ways, Giorgione is considered a pioneer of oil painting. The first Venetian artist to produce pictures using oils, he is ranked alongside Leonardo da Vinci in terms of establishing and promoting the use of oils in art.
Using a gradual shading of colors to show perspective and light - also known as sfumato (chiaroscuro technique) - Giorgione added character to work, regardless of whether he had taken the idea from da Vinci or incorporated it himself.
It's fair to say that much of his life, and work, is full of mystery because many critics claim that a lot of his work was completed by other artists. His untimely death due to the plague meant that he did have some outstanding work that needed to be finished and thus the style may have changed slightly with regards to these works, but overall Giorgione developed a new style of painting that was imitated for years after.
During Giorgione's career there were many wars taking place for the provinces of Italy, but more importantly, the Renaissance was still in full flow in both Venice and Florence. Some legends had come before Giorgione and changed the nature of art in Italy, which then influenced artists across Europe. These include;
The Bellini brothers
Giorgione's apprenticeship with Giovanni Bellini gave him a solid foundation on which to forge his career. The landscapes we see from Bellini's later years are very similar to those produced by Giorgione later on, and it was a completely new way of viewing nature through the medium of art.
Following his apprenticeship, Giorgione produced many Madonnas, which was a very theme in painting at this time. He discovered a love for the natural form herein and decided he would spend most of his career creating works around this subject. Giorgione's reasoning for such a commitment is unknown, but an emphasis on landscapes had developed following the Romantic Movement.
Leonardo da Vinci:
It's understood that Giorgione met Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s, and many commentators say that this meeting had a profound affect on Giorgione's oil painting in particular.
In many ways however, it was how Giorgione influenced emerging artists that's more important. The Renaissance moved quickly with many great painters contributing to and changing it year after year.
Venus de Urbino
Giorgione left a huge legacy in Italy but particularly in Venice, where he had greatest influence on the art world. He particularly inspired;
• Titian - his student
• Sebastiano del Piombo
• Palma Vecchio
• Dosso Dossi
• Giulio Campagnola
Not only this, Giorgione also inspired his own teacher and later artists, like Jean-Antoine Watteau and so his techniques had a lasting effect despite his short career.
Giorgione is heralded as a pioneer of various artistic themes such as portraits, landscape painting and genre painting. The latter was ahead of its time and all of Giorgione's work seemed to surpass that of his contemporaries. His paintings were designed to portray mood and feelings and this was rather innovative and became the benchmark of the Venetian School of oil painting.
Titian, or Tiziano Vecelli, was undoubtedly an important part of this school, and was also a student of Giorgione. Titian finished some of his master's drawings and although his style developed, his foundations were Giorgione-esque.
Modern art critics generally agree that Giorgione was a pillar of the Renaissance and a pioneer in the world of art - responsible for the increased use of oils paintings.
Critics Frederick Hartt and David G. Wilkins, in History of Italian Renaissance Art, said of Giorgione: "As a pupil of Bellini, Giorgione continued the tradition established by his master of using landscape to convey mood and enhance meaning. Perhaps the interest in landscape on the part of artists and patrons can be explained by the absence of landscape from daily experience."
Giorgio Vasari states, "In the same period that Florence was acquiring so much fame through the works of Leonardo, no small embellishment was bestowed upon Venice by the talent and excellence of one of its citizens who surpassed by far the Bellini's."
Vasari is a legend of the art world and his comments are read admirably by historians even today. His glowing reference to Giorgione further enhances the belief that he was one of the greatest Venetian painters of the Renaissance.
To learn more about Giorgione's career please refer to the following recommended sources.
• Cook, Herbert. Giorgione. Dodo Press, 2007
• Dal Pozzolo, Enrico Maria. Giorgione. Motta, 2009
• Hartt, F. & Wilkins, D. G. History of Italian Renaissance Art, 2007
• Lucco, Mauro. Giorgione. GALLIMARD, 1997
• Pignatti, T. & Pedrocco, F. Giorgione. LEVI, 1999
• Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Artists. Oxford University Press, 1991