Annibale Carracci was born on November 3, 1560 in Bologna. In all likelihood he was first apprenticed within his family.
His cousin Ludovico Carracci along with Annibale's brother Agostino, opened a painter's Academy. The 17th century critic Giovanni Bellori praised Carracci as the epitome of Roman Baroque. While the Carraccis laid special emphasis on draftsmanship, they also worked in a style mediating between the Florentine emphasis on linear drawing and the Venetian attention to the glimmering use of color leading to a mistier edge of objects. These qualities became particularly associated with artists of the Bolognese School.
It is difficult to distinguish the individual contributions by each Carraci brother in many early works. For example, the frescoes on the story of Jason for Palazzo Fava in Bologna (c. 1583-84) are signed Carracci, which suggests that they all contributed.
Based on the prolific and masterful frescoes by the Carracci in Bologna, Annibale was recommended by the Duke of Parma, Ranuccio I Farnese, to his brother, the Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. Annibale developed hundreds of preparatory sketches for the major product, wherein he led a team painting frescoes on the ceiling of the grand salon.
Throughout 17th and 18th centuries, the Farnese Ceiling was considered the unrivaled masterpiece of fresco painting for its age. They were not only seen as a pattern book of heroic figure design, but also as a model of technical procedure; Annibale’s hundreds of preparatory drawings for the ceiling became a fundamental step in composing any ambitious history painting.
Carracci was remarkably eclectic in thematic, painting landcapes, genre scenes, and portraits, including a series of autoportraits across the ages. He was one of the first Italian painters to paint a canvas wherein landscape took priority over figures.
Annibale died July 15, 1609 and was buried, according to his wish, near Raphael in the Pantheon of Rome. It is a measure of his achievement that artists as Bernini, Poussin, and Rubens praised his work.