Giovanni Francesco Barbieri known as Guercino

Italian (Bolognese School) painter and draughtsman (1591 - 1666), known by his Italian nickname Guercino, meaning 'the squinter'

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, usually called Guercino ('the squinter' in Italian, due to a cross-eyed squint that he supposedly acquired after a childhood accident), was one of the leading Italian painters of the seventeenth century and a brilliant and prolific draughtsman, whose drawings were avidly acquired by art collectors. The finest collection of his drawings (some 350) are now in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. Most of Guercino’s drawings were working studies made to prepare the compositions of his paintings or the prints after his designs, but he also enjoyed sketching landscape, sometimes bizarre caricatures, and lively scenes from daily life in the streets and houses of Cento and Bologna.

Guercino was based primarily in his native town of Cento near Bologna until the death of the Bolognese-based painter Guido Reni (1575 - 1642) in 1642, when Guercino moved to Bologna to take over the role of the city's leading artist. His early dark dramatically-lit and naturalistic religious and history paintings gradually changed in style after a stay in Rome between 1621 - 1623 and became lighter and more classically composed under the increasing influence of his nearby rival for patronage Reni.

His activity as a painter is well documented, due to the extensive list of his commissions published in 1687 by his contemporary biographer Carlo Malvasia (who had access to documents in Guercino’s house) and the artist's account book (Libro dei conti) recording payments for commissions from 1629 onwards, which was kept in Guercino’s studio by his younger brother Paolo Antonio Barbieri. Guercino never married and his estate including many of his drawings went to his nephews and later assistants Benedetto Gennari the younger and Cesare Gennari, who retained them until 1719. Eighteenth-century English collectors were particularly eager collectors of Guercino's paintings and especially his drawings. But the Victorians had no sympathy for his style or subjects and his work fell out of favour until the late 20th century.
  • Gender
    Male
  • Relationship
    Artist/maker
  • Nationality
    Italian
  • Born
    1591-02-02 possibly
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Cento
  • Died
    1666-12-22
  • Place of death
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Bologna
  • Cause of death
    Illness
Page load time: 250 ms