Titian: Paintings and Drawings

Titian: Paintings and Drawings

Titian: Paintings and Drawings

Titian: Paintings and Drawings

Excerpt

The chief dates from Titian's life, and the most important historical events of his time which had a direct influence on him personally, will be found in the Chronological Table. This table is merely a rough documentary framework enclosing an artistic career of exceptional productiveness. This contrast between the unusual number of his achievements and the lack of properly authenticated data has affected the general conception even of the master's external appearance; in the eyes of posterity Titian is still a wonderful genius who almost attained the fabulous age of one hundred years. Nowadays, however, the conviction is growing that his birth ought to be dated about a decade later than was hitherto assumed, and this harmonizes better with the chief events of his career. He was born about 1488 at Pieve di Cadore, left his native village as a boy to go to Venice, where he studied under Sebastiano Zuccato, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, being brought to public notice for the first time in 1508 as Giorgione's assistant in the decoration of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. After this he worked in the provinces (Padua), and it was not until the death of Giorgione (end of 1510) and of Giovanni Bellini (1516) that the way was made clear for him in Venice itself. In the latter year he was appointed official painter to the Republic after being granted a broker's patent at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, and about the same time important commissions from churches in Venice and Venetia began to pour in upon him and he came into touch with the art-loving princely courts of Italy. In the fifteen years between 1515 and 1530, during which he developed his personal and monumental style, he also laid the foundations of his position in civic life and became the leading figure in the world of Italian painting. Titian's position in his own country was already exceptional, but the meeting with Emperor Charles V in the winter of 1532/33, which led to his being appointed the Emperor's own painter, conferred upon him an even more unusual rank in the world of international art. The astonishing activity which he displayed during his two visits to the imperial court at Augsburg (1548/49 and 1550/51) made him one of the most brilliant figures in European painting of that time, and to a certain degree one of the historical figures of the age. The decades which follow this zenith of his achievements reflect the glow of this close contact with the imperial ruler. Titian remained court painter to the King of Spain and became the organizer of a vast activity which could be accomplished only with the assistance of a large number of helpers; these two circumstances, his international reputation and the creation of a highly productive atelier, enabled him to exercise a powerful influence in every direction. At the same time they brought Titian into a certain opposition to the bulk of the artistic production in his own country and served to deepen the natural isolation of the ageing artist in respect to the younger generations. From this inward loneliness sprang the style of Titian's old age, the last expression, free from all thought of public approval, of his creative genius, the apotheosis of his art; thus his influence, which was already extensive, became spiritually profound and enduring. These two facts determine Titian's place in the history of art.

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