The term Mannerism was derived from the Italian word maniera, translated as “style.” Mannerism developed in Florence and Rome between 1520 and 1600, as a style that rejected the balance of the Renaissance period in favor of a more emotional and distorted point of view. This art style reflected the tension in Europe at the time of its popularity.
The Mannerism Movement eventually gained favor in northern Italy and most of central and northern Europe. Paintings contained artificial color and unrealistic spatial proportions. Figures were often elongated and exaggerated, positioned in imaginative and complex poses. Works of the movement are often unsettling and strange, probably a result of the time period’s upheaval from the Reformation, the plague, and the sack of Rome. In 1600, Mannerists were accused of disrupting the unity of Renaissance classicism. However, in retrospect, the Mannerist movement supplied the link between Renaissance perfection and the emotional Baroque art that later developed in the 17th century.
El Greco is arguably the best-known Mannerist painter. Born on Crete, then a possession of Venice, El Greco learned his craft in the Byzantine manner. An extremely pious, cultured man, El Greco's very intense, spiritual works are famed for their tortuously elongated figures.
More than any other Venetian artist, Tintoretto embraced the emotional aspects of Mannerism. He was a huge fan of Michelangelo, whose influence can clearly be seen. Although Tintoretto was prolific, and one of the most successful Venetian painter in the generation after Titian's death, little is known of his life.