The Accademia Galleries hold an important collection of Venetian painting from the 14th to the 18th centuries, including masterpieces by the most famous masters - such as Bellini, Giorgione, Carpaccio, Tiziano, Tintoretto, Veronese, and Tiepolo.
Founded in 1750 by the Venetian Senate as Venice’s school of painting, sculpture, and architecture, the school was one of the first to study and develop art restoration. The Accademia was renamed the Accademia Reale di Belle Arti and moved to its present premises in 1807 by order of the Napoleonic occupying forces. After the suppression of religious congregations and public Venetian magistratures, a large quantity of art works was confiscated. A selection of masterpieces was sent to Paris, to be shown in the Louvre Museum.
In Venice, many paintings of the local school from the 14th to the 18th centuries were rescued from dispersion and sale by the Accademia gallery, which functioned as didactic collection for young artists. In order to include a systematic overview of Italian art, the Accademia strove to purchase works from most important Italian schools, but it was decided later to give preference to regional works.
The Venetian Academy of Painters and Sculptors, created in 1750, had its seat at the Fonteghetto della Farina in San Marco. In 1807, Napoleon's government chose as its new seat the building complex of the Carità, formed by the ancient church of Santa Maria della Carità, the Convent of the Canonici Lateranensi (built by Andrea Palladio) and the Scuola Grande della Carità.
On November 5, 1807, the new school opened, and in August 10, 1817, the Accademia gallery of paintings was opened to the public. The first nucleus of the collections were formed by works from the old Academy, selected paintings of the Scuola della Carità, and the Farsetti plasters collection. Additional paintings were recovered from France, while others were taken from Venetian churches such as San Giobbe's. The museum continuously increased its collection with private donations and new acquisitions of significant works.
A renovation project began in 1819 and was completed in 1856: two large halls were constructed to the left of the convent, divided by four marble columns. The convent was enlarged and in 1830 the Carità emblems of the facade were substituted by Accademia symbols. The great hall of the ground floor was divided to create a separate entrance for the gallery, independent from the school.
A radical reorganization of the galleries was undertaken in 1895. The 19th century artists were removed, and the works were organized chronologically. The 15th century paintings were grouped together, and polygonal exhibition spaces were created for some painting cycles to allow the experience of pictorial continuity. The Galleries became independent from the School and the Academy in 1906.
Between 1945 and 1948, paintings were selected and frames that were not original removed. The reorganization project continued until the end of the 1950's.
The connection between the Accademia Galleries and Venice is deep, as many important works from churches, schools, and public magistratures are preserved here. In some cases, the shown works are the only testimony remaining from churches destroyed during the Napoleonic period. Some of the most famous paintings form part of the collections thanks to the generosity of private collectors.