Giovanni Bellini is often considered to be the father of the Venetian Renaissance. His unparalleled rendering of color and light helped usher in a period of overwhelming creativity in Venice, and arguably all of Europe. He was known for his religiously impassioned images of the Madonna and Christ, as well as his ability to convey the subtlest of human emotions. Bellini was born and died in Venice during a time when the La Serenissima, or Venetian Republic, was a formidable trading power and crossroads of Europe. During his life, Venice remained an integral player in Mediterranean and even world trade. Although he may never have ventured far from Venice, Bellini was by no means isolated from other artists. Rather, he studied the style of Northern European painters and welcomed visitors from all across Europe. As he aged, he even took cues from his pupils in order to further hone his skills. Early years: Giovanni Bellini was born into a renowned family of painters around the year 1430. His father, Jacopo, was instrumental in bringing the Italian Renaissance to Venice and sought to ensure that his sons, Giovanni and Gentile, would become great painters too. Giovanni and his elder brother, Gentile, probably began their careers as assistants in their father's workshop, learning valuable skills and techniques from him and his pupils. One of these pupils, the Paduan painter, Andrea Mantegna, would become Bellini's brother-in-law and a great influence on his early artwork. Middle years: Once Bellini had made a name for himself through his portraits and stunning portrayals of Biblical events, he began to abandon the older paint style of tempera in favor of oil paints around the 1470s. The use of oil paints helped unleash Bellini's eye for color and light and his paintings took on an even more life-like quality. Many of his altarpieces are so detailed and convincing, it is said, that people sitting in the back pew can feel the emotion etched on the face of each subject. It was also during this time that Bellini was offered a prestigious position at the Doge's Palace in Venice. He painted panels in the palace's great hall, portraits and altarpieces, and oversaw further work for the rest of his life. Later years: Bellini painted actively up until his death at the age of almost 90 in 1516. During the last fifteen years of his life, he was inundated with commissions to paint his breathtaking altarpieces, portraits and mythologies - all with careful attention to landscape detail. Although he was a master painter, considered by many to be the best in Venice, Bellini was always eager to learn new styles and techniques from younger painters and his students, and he worked to hone his skills until his death.
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