Giovanni Bellini (1431-1516)
The brother-in-law of Andrea Mantegna and in the opinion of some art historians, the founder of the Venetian style of painting. He was responsible for bringing Venice into the forefront of Renaissance art.
Bellini's most impressive work is his intensely spiritual St. Francis in Ecstasy. This piece, characterized by Bellini's soft contours and colors, presents a focus on nature. This is seen in St. Francis's small size in relation to his surroundings. In this work, Bellini shows the influence of some of the Flemish painters that held sway over many Venetians artists. The one feature that displays this influence is the exquisite detail Bellini utilizes in the depiction of the natural world.
Bellini is also notable for his various "Sacra Conversazione" type paintings. These paintings, characterized by a grouping of saints from different eras and areas together with the Virgin and Son, were far less personal then perhaps St. Francis in Ecstasy was as they were formal commissioned altar panals. A good example of one of these paintings would be his Madonna and Saints.
Bellini should be considered one of the most important artists to come out of Italy as his influence is felt throughout the rest of the Renaissance onwards. Titian, Durer, and Giorgione were all influenced by him, and it is partially because of him that Venice was catapulted to a position of enormous influence in the artistic world during the Renaissance.