The Campi family of painters from Cremona developed a style that mixed elements of Mannerism with the Venetian school, along with German and Flemish influences. Giulio and his brothers Vincenzo (1536 – 1591) and Antonio (1522 – 1587), all painters, were the sons of the painter Galeazzo (1477 – 1536). A distant relative of theirs, Bernardino Campi (1522 – 1591), was also a painter and assisted Giulio.
Giulio Campi was the eldest brother, and also an architect. His style of painting was rich in color, as from the Venetian influence. He helped to define the Cremonese School of painting and although his elder, was often called the Ludovico Carracci of Cremona, as in Carracci (1555 – 1619) of the Eclectic Academy and Bolognese School of painting. He showed a unique style even in his early works, such as his first altarpiece Virgin and Child with SS Celsus and Nazarius for the Church of Sant’ Abbondio. This piece displayed an influence from Emilian artists, as well as Brescian artists such as Il Moretto da Brescia (1498 – 1554) and Girolamo Romani, called Romanino (1484 – 1562). The artist also showed a noted influence from Giovanni Antonio de Sacchis, called Pordenone (1484 – 1539).
Campi’s fresco work was seen throughout churches in Cremona, Mantua and Milan. This includes notable works such as his Descent from the Cross in Cremona’s San Sigismondo, the altarpieces Nativity with Saints and Virgin and Saints with a Marchese Stampa as Donor in Milan, also work in the San Girolamo of Mantua. His was also a successful portraitist, showing elaborate coloring and sophistication in his 1551 piece, Portrait of Ottavio Farnese or Alessandro Farnese. A number of his portraits can be seen in the Uffizi Gallery, including Portrait of a Musician, Portrait of a Man, and one of his father, Portrait of Galeazzo Campi.
In Cremona, Giulio Campi was also a known collaborator with Camillo Boccaccino (1504 – 1546), son of the Emilian painter Boccaccio Boccaccino (1467 – 1525).