Giorgione da Castelfranco ca. 1477–1510 Italian Painter

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Giorgione da
ca. 1477–1510
Italian painter

The Venetian painter known as Giorgione is one of the most mysterious figures in Renaissance art. The writer Baldassare Castiglione called him one of the greatest painters of the age, while artist and author Giorgio Vasari described Giorgione as the inventor of the "modern style" of Venetian painting. However, art historians have little information about Giorgione's career. They disagree over which pieces he painted because no works bearing his signature exist. In fact, they do not even know his full name.

Giorgione was born in the city of Castelfranco and, according to Vasari, studied under the artist Giovanni Bellini. Most scholars believe that Giorgione began painting around 1500, but the absence of signed pieces makes tracing his early works difficult. He is known to have created an altarpiece for the cathedral of Castelfranco. Records also show that he painted canvases and frescoes* for patrons* in Venice in 1507 and 1508.

Between 1521 and 1543 a Venetian nobleman named Marcantonio Michiel compiled a list of paintings that he claimed were by Giorgione. Scholars now accept three of these as the artist's works: Bow with an Arrow, Three Philosophers in a Landscape, and The Tempest. The last two feature extraordinarily beautiful landscapes. Michiel claimed that other artists, including the Venetian master Titian, finished some of these paintings. Most scholars agree on several other pieces as the work of Giorgione.

Giorgione's paintings reflect the classical* tastes of Renaissance Italy. They often feature sensual and pastoral* images. His exploration of landscape and mood led some critics to call his works "painted poems." In The Tempest, for example, the artist uses eerie lighting to add drama to the stormy scene.

Giorgione experimented with technique as well as subject matter. According to Vasari, Giorgione did not draw his subjects on the canvas before painting but sketched the outlines with his brush. His early paintings show smooth, even layers of color, typical of Bellini's technique. However, Giorgione soon moved away from this style toward a heavier, irregular layering of paint that emphasized the texture of the canvas and of the artist's brush strokes. A generation of artists adopted this technique, called impasto, which became a standard feature of Venetian painting in the 1500s.

(See alsoArt; Art in Italy. )

* fresco

mural painted on a plaster wall

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer

* classical

in the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome

* pastoral

relating to the countryside; often used to draw a contrast between the innocence and serenity of rural life and the corruption and extravagance of court life

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Giorgione da Castelfranco ca. 1477–1510 Italian Painter

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