Friday, 18 January 2013

Jacopo Tintoretto - Venetian art in the 16th Century

Hi everyone,

I really enjoyed writing the Titian blog piece so today I thought I would tell you about another of my favourite artists. I have a particular interest in 16th century Venice so I thought today I would tell you about Tintoretto who was another artist who was working in Venice at the time, Tintoretto. Tintoretto's approach is the direct opposite to Titian so I thought it would be a good comparison. In todays post I thought I would tell you a bit about Tintoretto as an artist and then later this week I will talk about some of his paintings.

Jacopo Tintoretto was born and also died in Venice, unlike Titian who was born outside of Venice but moved there aged 10. Tintoretto stayed in his native city nearly all of his life and there is only one record of him going away from Venice which was in 1580 for a commission in Mantua. He painting religious and mythological works as well as portraits of prominent Venetians. Early on in his career he struggled to gain recognition and was never wholly accepted by the leading aristocratic families in Venice. His recognition as a painter came with his comission by the Sculola Grande di S. Marco and later in is career he also worked in the Doge's palace (a Doge is the leader of Venice).

This is a self portrait of Tintoretto 1518-1594

He was said to have ....'the draughtsmanship of Michelangelo and the colouring of Titian'.

He set himself up in opposition to Titian. Tintoretto and Titians work both have an unfinished quality to them. Although both artists have this same quality in their work the reason for this is very different.Titian deliberately creates this unfinished look as an artistic effect. He built up his paint surface layer after layer to create a loose, rough effect which appears unfinished when examined closely but finished when looking from a distance. Tintoretto  was known for his 'prestezza' which means his speed of execution and the quickness of his actual brushstrokes. However, this is not an artistic effect but rather due to the speed of execution and economy of effort. His work can be described as 'non finito', not finished. Tintoretto instead provides us with the idea, the outline but does not fill in the smaller details. It is not highly finished. In his work we will know what a detail is meant to be but it is not an accurate representation of that object but rather the impression of it.

The Miracle of St Mark freeing the Slave- Tintoretto 1548.

He was clever in the way he gained commissions but also engaged in ethically dubious practices  He often under cut competitors to win prized commissions  At first his deals seemed like extraordinary acts of generosity because of their low cost but in the long run it meant he won lots of major commissions and was commissioned to do things that he might not have been commissioned to do if he hadn't have charged. This helped him build a reputation as an artist and increased his status therefore helping him to become successful. His technique of rapid painting allowed him to take on many commissions as it took him a lot less time to complete a painting than his rivals such as Titian.

The lack of opulence in Tintoretto's work is demonstrated in works like The Last Supper.
While Titian often painted rich fabrics and opulence as this challenged him as a painter to recreate them realistically, Tintoretto moved away from this style and created work which was devotional and more humble in subject matter. This was important as during the time there was the Catholic and counter reformation. There was a move away from opulence and luxury and a more towards a more humble way of expressing devotional aspects in a visual form.

There are also differences between Titan and Tintoretto in commissions. Tintoretto was a native Venetian and very loyal to his city. Titian (who was dominating Venetian art at the time) started to look beyond Venice and had international commissions while Tintoretto had nearly all of his commissions in Venice. Two very different ways of working and of gaining commissions.

Vasari who wrote biographies on the artists at the time and was extremely influential in his writings treated Tintoretto's art as a joke which had a negative impact on his work.

Hope you have enjoyed this introduction to Tintoretto and be sure to check back on my blog later on in the week for discussions of some of his key paintings.

The Dorothy Days

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