Special thanks to the Microsoft Corporation for permission to use following biographical information from Microsoft® Encarta '97:
Giorgione was an Italian painter who invigorated the Venetian school of painting and whose art was unrivaled in the portrayal of mood.
Details of Giorgione's life and career are sparse and unreliable, but it appears that he was born in Castelfranco and that he studied under the Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini. His original name was probably Giorgio Barbarelli. No signed and dated works of his remain; most scholars accept a small core of works as his, including the Castelfranco Altarpiece (1504, Castelfranco Veneto), Three Philosophers (Art History Museum, Vienna), and Tempest (Accademia, Venice). Other works are attributed to him on the basis of indirect evidence, although many of these attributions are still debated.
Most of Giorgione's paintings consist of a figure or group of figures integrated in a broad surrounding landscape. Unlike earlier pictures in this mode, these works exhibit a new and highly lyrical use of light: The lighting is soft and hazy and is used to create mood rather than to define sharply the objects in the scene. He deliberately refused to make preparatory drawings, preferring instead to compose directly on the canvas; he felt that this led to a more atmospheric rendering and to more striking color effects.
Giorgione's innovations in subject matter were especially important in two areas: the landscape and the female nude. Prior to Giorgione, landscape scenes were taken from biblical, classical, or allegorical stories, but the Tempest appears to have no such source and stands on its own as a purely imaginative work. It gave birth to a revolution against the storytelling element in landscape painting and paved the way for later masters such as the French painter Claude Lorrain and the Dutch artist Rembrandt. Sleeping Venus (1510?, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, Germany), attributed to Giorgione, pictures a reclining nude and is one of the first modern works of art in which the female figure is the principal and only subject of the picture. It inaugurated the nude in a landscape setting as one of the great themes of European art and led directly to the work of artists such as the Venetian painter Titian and the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens.