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Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte) was an Italian painter, the most celebrated member of a family of artists who took their name from the small town of Bassano, about 65 km. from Venice.
Apart from a period in the 1530s when he trained with Bonifazio Veronese in Venice, Jacopo worked in Bassano all his life. His father, Francesco the Elder (c.1475-1539), was a village painter and Jacopo always retained something of the peasant artist, even though the influence of, for example, the fashionable etchings of Parmigianino is evident in his work.
Even though most of his career was spent in small or middle-sized towns on the mainland, he always remained alert to the latest developments in art, sometimes borrowing details from Lorenzo Lotto's works in his portraits. A pioneer in genre scenes and landscape painting, engravings were critical in forming Jacopo's style, particularly those by and after artists like Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, and Parmigianino.
By 1534 he had found his direction in the art of nearby Venice, learning as much from the chiaroscuro and luxurious color of Titian's works as from his teachers. He won some renown in Venice itself, and became one of the Veneto's most influential painters in the mid-1500s.
He also had the ability to devise new ideas for compositions that possessed great force of expression. Trained in his father's studio, Jacopo broke away from the local popular and devotional tradition by studying prints by Raphael and developments in Mannerism. His early Mannerist works used elongated figures and brilliant colors. During the 1540s his painting was experimental, the anatomy of his characters was forced and their postures unnatural. This phase proved crucial in the development of his own very personal style which was capable of assimilating new ideas and translating them into an art with enormous communicative power. Jacopo Bassano's popular realism was underpinned by his exceptional use of light and characterized by the lifelike quality of the people and details, especially the animals, in his pictures. Local taste required that art illustrate reality, and Jacopo drew inspiration from the simple human scenes, farm life, and changing aspects of nature he observed in his hometown. To Mannerism's energy, extreme movement, and tightly compressed space, he added realism and earthiness. A humble and subtle observer, his sitters may seem unaware of his presence. Increasingly, he used religious and philosophical subjects as pretexts for painting genre scenes and landscapes.
Over the years his oeuvre became increasingly grand and dramatic, starting with a series of altarpieces (in Bassano, Treviso, Padua, and Belluno) whose production dates from the 1550s through to the end of his career.
He treated biblical themes in the manner of rustic genre scenes, using genuine country types and portraying animals with real interest. In this way he helped to develop the taste for paintings in which the genre or still-life element assumes greater importance than the ostensible religious subject. From around 1560 his work became vested with a more exaggerated search for novel effects of light, taking on something of the iridescent coloring of Tintoretto.
Bassano had four painter sons who continued his style -- Francesco the Younger (1549-92), Gerolamo (1566-1621), Giovanni Battista (1553-1613), and Leandro (1557-1622). Francesco (who committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window) and Leandro both acquired some distinction and popularity working in Venice. Jacopo's workshop was a minor industry in Bassano, and his four sons continued his style into the next century. The work of the family is well represented in the Museo Civico at Bassano.
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