A very popular landscape painter of his time, Jacopo dal Ponte, took the name of his birthplace, Bassano del Grappa, as his own. As an apprentice in his father’s workshop Jacopo Bassano was exposed to art at an early age, albeit mostly religious paintings that were his father’s ‘bread and butter’. His hometown was only 65 miles from Venice, and the lure of the big city drew him there as soon as he reached adulthood in the 1530’s.
Bassano, while studying under Bonifazio de Pitati, came to know such great artists as Titian and il Pordenone. De Pitati encouraged Bassano to follow in the footsteps of Titian, and the influences are apparent in many of Bassano’s earliest paintings. His Supper at Emmaus, which was completed in 1538, is full of vibrant colors, noticeably similar to Titian’s earlier paintings. Bassano continued with the use of brilliant colors in his paintings; He countered against the Italian Renaissance influences, especially by adding details into his religious scenes that would have not been considered typical of the style.
Examples of this departure can be found in Supper at Emmaus, where Christ is painted towards the back of the painting, which gives more importance to the other people in the foreground. Additionally, the figures are dressed in 16th century garb, rather than the loose draping robes that Renaissance painters were found of using on their characters. Bassano tried to incorporate a more life-like scene with a sitting dog and a cat beneath the chairs, while a servant brings food and another character watches on.
In a mere four years new changes followed as Bassano’s talent brought even more life to the canvas, in his Last Supper (1542). He had begun to follow the styles of Raphael and Durer, with great success, and it became evident in this painting that he’d chosen to paint in a Mannerist form. Again Bassano progressed into new ideas and techniques, when in the 1550’s to 1570’s he experimented with nocturnes - dark paintings of nighttime landscapes either lit or highlighted with artificial light sources. Excellent examples of his nocturnes are his Christ Drives the Dealers from the Temple and his Mourning for Christ. He had also abandoned Renaissance painting styles; his religious characters were depicted in natural outdoor scenes and the landscape details held as much importance as the human figures portrayed therein.
An unusual aspect of Bassano’s abilities to incorporate the diverse techniques of several artists into his own works was made even more notable by the fact that he was not a traveler, as were many of his fellow artists. He had moved back to his hometown after his father’s death in 1539, married a local woman and never left again. His only exposure to new artists and their works were most likely through prints; without a master’s direction or instruction he was able to imitate and compound their styles into his own form of genius.