Over dinner in Rome in 1546, a certain Cardinal Farnese asked artist and architect Giorgio Vasari to assemble what came to be known as "The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects."
It was a a gift to art historians that still shines today. Vasari knew many of his subjects personally, and his first-hand and near-first-hand account of their genius, virtues and mortal frailties has an almost journalistic feeling at times.
There are English translations of Vasari's work online in several locations, but here's one notable place to have a look (new translations that are growing week by week). Venetian artists and architects, as well as outsiders who have important works in Venice are well represented, including the Bellini's, Sansovino, Michele Sanmicheli, and Palladio, among others.