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Giambattista Tiepolo

Venetian Painter

Giambattista Tiepolo Photo
Movements and Styles: The Baroque, The Rococo

Born: March 5, 1696 - Venice

Died: March 27, 1770 - Madrid, Spain

Summary of Giambattista Tiepolo

The great 18th century Venetian painter Tiepolo ranks as the supreme exponent of the ornamental and asymmetrical Italian Rococo style. Tiepolo is thus associated with decorative, airy frescoes that displayed a partiality for pastel shades and sumptuous costumes. His art celebrated caprice (capriccio) and fantasy (fantasia) but within a thematic preference for ancient history and myth, and the holy scriptures. He is considered one of the great Venetian masters, and in his own time nobility and clergy hailed him "the most famous of the virtuosi". Indeed, the history of Western art tends to present Tiepolo as the last of the truly great Italian masters. In addition to his work in Italy, he produced spectacular masterpieces across Europe and especially in royal palaces in Bavaria and Spain. Bright in color and graceful of touch, his art is associated with the pleasure of looking though his work is also recognized for a spacious quality that allows the spectator to bring their own ideas to his wonderfully painted fantasies.

Key Ideas

Tiepolo is recognized above all else for a series of radiant and poetic frescoes that carry with them a profound lightness of touch and elegance. His frescoes earned him the nickname Veronese Redivio (the new Veronese) since, like Veronese, Tiepolo's luxurious mythological and religious narratives were brought to life by the hand of a most wonderful colorist. He also shared with Veronese the tendency to set his dramas against the backdrop of a painted architectural "stage".
Tiepolo favored unhurried, fluid, brushstrokes through which he applied his trademark pastel palette. In the words of famous art historian E. H. Gombrich, the artist's style lent itself perfectly to "the whole aristocratic dream-world" which he did so much to help create. To this end, Tiepolo's dramatic narratives were often tallied with a noticeable degree of sparseness. This was not a blemish on Tiepolo's talent so much as an attempt to let the spectator add details to the picture by using their own imagination.
Tiepolo was unique amongst his contemporaries for the value of his preparatory oil sketches. He would work from the outset on a single modelli (the norm being to break down the planned composition into multiple modelli) enabling him to explore color and compositional relationships as a whole piece. Tiepolo's oil sketches became valued in themselves as much more than functional studio pieces. Indeed, he followed the precedent set in the previous century by Peter Paul Rubens whose oil sketches were the first to became highly desired amongst collectors and other artists as artworks in their own right.
Giambattista Tiepolo Photo

The fifth and youngest child of Domenico Tiepolo, a merchant and ship's captain, and Orsetta (maiden name unknown), Giambattista Tiepolo was born on April 16th, 1696 in the Sestiere of Castello, Venice. Both of his brothers, Domenico and Lorenzo, were to become eminent artists in their own right, particularly Domenico, but it was Giambattista Tiepolo who was to be the greatest of them all. While the family into which Giambattista was born was thoroughly bourgeois, it bore no aristocratic lineage. Giambattista, and indeed his siblings, all had high-born godparents but why this was so remains a mystery, though, at an educated guess, it might have been a result of Domenico's business connections. Tragedy stuck early in the life of the young Giambattista, however, when, in 1697, his father died. Domenico had left the family a decent inheritance, but the mother decided to entrust her youngest son to the care of Gregorio Lazzarini, an academic painter who taught his pupils basic painting techniques.

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