The Godfather of Modern Painting; as Titian Is Celebrated in a Major Exhibition at the National Gallery, in the First of Two Parts on the Venetian Master, Our Art Critic Surveys His Lasting Influence

By Sewell, Brian | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Godfather of Modern Painting; as Titian Is Celebrated in a Major Exhibition at the National Gallery, in the First of Two Parts on the Venetian Master, Our Art Critic Surveys His Lasting Influence


Sewell, Brian, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: BRIAN SEWELL

TIZIANO Vecellio is one of the small group of Italian High Renaissance artists so universally esteemed that their names have been translated into other languages. In France he is known as Titien, Tizian in Germany, Titian in England, here to be pronounced in a wilful English way as Tishn; he occasionally signed his pictures with the bold capitals T and V, and occasionally in the Latin form Titianus, the pronunciation of which must be left to the delicacy of schoolmasters if they are not to reduce their pupils to helpless adolescent giggling.

Born in Cadore, a village in the mountains near Cortina, 80 miles north of Venice on the borders of Carinthia, he was the pupil of that grand old man of later-15th century Venetian painting, Giovanni Bellini, but we do not know quite when.

The date of his birth is a matter of conjecture and controversy. Those attracted by the notion of his being a centenarian when he died in the great plague of 1576 - for which there is documentary support in one of his letters to Philip II of Spain - willingly accept a birthday in 1476.

Those who, looking at his early work, prefer to see him as precocious and not, like Rubens, sluggish in developmentnow suggest in the catalogue-that "A date of birth in or just before 1490 would fit with the known facts of his early life ..." But the "known facts" in this thesis seem to be inferences from Vasari's observations on Titian's relationship with Giorgione, his predecessor as a pupil of Bellini, and Vasari, father of art history, was far from infallible in many details of his biographies of artists and his "known facts" must not be accepted without the support of other evidence.

Let us accept that Titian was born more than a generation later than Leonardo (b 1452), half a generation after Michelangelo (b 1475), a boyhood younger than Raphael (b 1483) and that he was heir to all their achievements, but differed from them in that he was exclusively a painter and felt no temptation to try his hand at sculpture, architecture or invention, and rarely even drew. A few drawings survive, and they are masterly, but Michelangelo criticised him fiercely for his failure to draw more, sensing in his paintings fine style and colour, but no study, no analysis.

This attitude to drawing establishes the dividing line between the Florentine Renaissance with its traditions of pale fresco, delicate tempera on panel and fine transparent glazes, and the robust Venetian development of oil paint heavily applied to rough canvas with a tooth that gave it texture; Florence was past her zenith, Venice the rising sun.

Titian was heir, too, to powerful new Venetian influences, to the poetic reveries of old Giovanni Bellini and young Giorgione, the brilliant pupil perhaps a decade his senior in the Bellini workshop.

He took their mood of mystery and melancholy, their range of thunderous light and serene sunset, just as he took Michelangelo's heroic sculptured nudes and, with Pietro Aretino, a skilled pornographer, at his elbow, converted them from concepts of nobility, gravity and virtue into telling sensuality.

He took the pagan sculptures of antiquity and refashioned both their form and their emotional expressiveness to new Christian purposes.

He took the proportions of architecture and applied them to his paintings, making his altarpieces harmonise with the structure of the churches for which they were commissioned, enlisting the fall of light from real windows in their pictorial illusions, and in his late mythologies using figures as though they were giant Corinthian columns lending order to an architectural faade.

And in all these he constantly toyed with colour, raising it to new heights of daring, brilliance and contrast, exploiting its emotional force until, in his last years, his eyes grown rheumy, the rich reds, greens and orpiments of his young manhood were reduced to tone, the joyful ribald mood to melancholy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Godfather of Modern Painting; as Titian Is Celebrated in a Major Exhibition at the National Gallery, in the First of Two Parts on the Venetian Master, Our Art Critic Surveys His Lasting Influence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.