Guido Reni, a prime master in the Bolognese school of painting, and one of the most admired artists of the period of incipient decadence in Italy
Reni was trained by Denys Calvaert, and then probably in the Carracci workshop. He spent 1602-13 in Rome, where Domenichino had also arrived. Reni is reputed to have met (and quarrelled with) Caravaggio there.
First apprenticed to the Flemish painter Denis Calvaert at the age of 10, Reni was later influenced by the novel naturalism of the Carracci, a Bolognese family of painters. In 1599 he was received into the guild of painters, and after 1601 he divided his time between his studios in Bologna and Rome. Upon gaining prominence Reni surrounded himself with helpers—such as Giovanni Lanfranco, Francesco Albani, and Antonio Carracci—who were fascinated by his noble if somewhat tyrannical personality.
In his early career Reni executed important commissions for Pope Paul V and Scipione Cardinal Borghese, painting numerous frescoes in chapels for these and other patrons. Among these works is the celebrated fresco “Aurora” (1613–14). In his religious and mythological paintings, Reni evolved a style that tempered Baroque exuberance and complexity with classical restraint. Such compositions as “Atalanta and Hippomenes” (1625) show his preference for gracefully posed figures that mirror antique ideals. In the later part of his career, Reni employed lighter tones, softer colours, and extremely free brushwork.
Except for the work of the Carracci family, the frescoes of Raphael and ancient Greek sculptures were the main inspiration for Reni’s art. He strove toward a classical harmony in which reality is presented in idealized proportions. The mood of his paintings is calm and serene, as are the studied softness of colour and form. His religious compositions made him one of the most famous painters of his day in Europe, and a model for other Italian Baroque artists.