Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

"...Painters should aspire to succeed in great works, those in which they may be able to please noble Lords and rich men, because these make the fortune of professors; and not [to please] other people, who cannot buy Paintings of much value. Therefore the mind of the Painter should always aim at the Sublime, at the Heroic, at Perfection."

- Giambattista Tiepolo, quoted in the Nuova veneta gazzetta of March 20, 1762; cited in Giambattista Tiepolo 1696-1996 (Venice, Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca'Rezzonico, 1996), at p. 6; this reference originally given in Francis Haskell, Patrons and Painters: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque (London, 1963), p. 253, n. 2

Giovanni-Battista Tiepolo created huge, dramatic frescoes combining emotional power, fresh colour and naturalistic lighting. He was the leading Italian painter of the eighteenth century, a brilliant draughtsman and accomplished printmaker. His devotional paintings depict subtle emotions with great sensitivity. Tiepolo's international clientele ranged from royalty to small confraternities.

Tiepolo studied art with Gregorio Lazzarini (1655-1730), but his early paintings reveal his admiration for earlier Venetian artists: Tintoretto, Veronese, and Piazzetta. Tiepolo's etchings were influenced by Callot, Rosa, and G.-B.Castiglione. For his large-scale works, especially frescoes, Tiepolo used assistants including his uncle Francesco Guardi. Tiepolo's sons Giandomenico and Lorenzo joined their father's workshop, which also functioned as a school. Beyond Italy, Tiepolo's fame brought him commissions in Germany and Spain: at Würzburg in 1750-53, and at the Spanish court from 1762.

Tiepolo was a master painter from 1717, when he joined Venice's confraternity of painters. His gift for drama revealed itself in his early paintings. Tiepolo's greatest works, his huge frescoes of 1750-53 in the Residenz at Würzburg, celebrate the world as seen by his 18th century European patron. In 1762, Tiepolo responded to a summons from King Charles III of Spain to paint frescoes at the Palacio Real, Madrid. The artist moved to Spain with his sons Giandomenico and Lorenzo, who assisted him in his work, and became independent artists themselves. Tiepolo's brilliant oil sketches for frescoes were sought-after by collectors. His understanding of light can be seen in his works on paper, which typically feature strong contrasts of light and shade. This can be seen in the National Gallery's Tiepolo drawings (Two Nude Figures Foreshortened, c. 1752-53; Fantastic Head in Profile, c. 1742-57), and in his prints. Tiepolo's sets of etchings, executed in the 1730s/1740s, were still being published after his death. Among these are Youth Seated by an Urn… from his Capricci (c. 1743-1785) and Seated Magus observing Skulls, from his Scherzi di fantasia, (c. 1743).