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Giorgio Vasari

1511 - 1574

Born in Arezzo, Tuscany, in 1511, Giorgio Vasari was a versatile artist. Painter, architect, art collector, writer and historian, Vasari is primarily acknowledged today as the author of The Lives of the Most Celebrated Painters, Sculptors and Architects. A foundational book of art history; it has acted as the prototype for all biographies of artists.

Descended from generations of potters, Vasari received his early artistic training in Arezzo from the painter and stained-glass maker Guillaume de Marcillat. He also acquired basic humanist learning, including Latin. He subsequently moved to Florence where he worked under the painter Andrea Del Sarto and the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli. Vasari had a prolific career in the city, working chiefly for the Medici family, notably for Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. He cultivated friendships with many artists, including Michelangelo, who influenced his style.

Vasari travelled extensively, working in Rome, Naples, and his native Arezzo. He came to specialise in large-scale commissions and ran a busy workshop. Among his achievements was the extensive renovation and fresco decoration of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence between 1555 and 1572. As an architect, his best-known work is the loggia of the Palazzo degli Uffizi, facing the river Arno.

Unusually well-educated for an artist of his time, the 1540s, Vasari became involved in chronicling the lives, times, works, and technique of the great artists of what he called the Renaissance, defining the term as we understand it today. 1550 saw publication of the first edition of the Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects in Florence. It chronicles a development of the arts toward greater naturalism and rational idealism. In 1568, he published a second, considerably expanded version of the book. It remains fundamental to the study of Western art.

Vasari died on 27 June 1574, while hard at work decorating the dome of the cathedral in Florence.