The early sixteenth century was a time of great innovation and experimentation in Venetian painting. Led by Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian, artists in Venice radically reinterpreted traditional subjects and introduced new ones, such as the pastoral landscape, the provocative woman, and the dramatic portrait. The manner of depicting these new themes was equally revolutionary. Paintings became larger in scale, compositions more dynamic, and brushwork more expressive and fluid. Artists embraced oil painting as the medium par excellence for rendering textures, capturing effects of light and atmosphere, and creating the luminous colors that are perhaps Venice's most dazzling legacy to the history of art.
The word "Renaissance" in the exhibition title refers, in the traditional sense, to the rebirth of antiquity—the revival of interest in classical art, literature, and philosophy. But here it also signifies that Venetian painting was transformed—reborn—in the opening decades of the sixteenth century. The exhibition focuses on the period from 1500 to 1530, which represents, visually and intellectually, the most exciting phase of the Renaissance in Venice, when three great masters, the old Bellini, Giorgione, and the young Titian, were all working side by side. Their innovations and those of gifted contemporaries, such as Sebastiano del Piombo, Palma Vecchio, and Lorenzo Lotto, would influence European art for centuries.