(d. 1576)
Tiziano Vecellio was the most famous painter in sixteenth-century Venice. His dynamic compositions, expressive brushwork, tonal and naturalistic color scheme, and use of color permeated with natural light influenced the develop­ment of painting both during and after his life.
Born in Pieve di Cadore, Italy, probably in the later 1480s, Titian studied painting in the shop of Giovanni Bellini. By 1507 he was associated with the studio of Giorgione. Giorgione's art exercised a great influence on Titian, and their contemporaries sometimes had difficulty in distinguishing their paintings. His frescoes for the Confraternity of Saint Anthony of Padua, his first docu­mented work, finished in 1511, show a synthesis of contemporary Venetian art with the latest in central Italian art, in particular that of Michelangelo.* By 1516 he was the outstanding painter in Venice owing to his technical skill, strength of form, fluid touch, clarity of expression, and ability to handle large compo­sitions, as seen in his original, colorful, and energetic Assumption of the Virgin for the Church of the Frari (1516-18). Titian's inventiveness also appears in his Pesaro Madonna altarpiece in the same church, in which he modernized the nature of such devotional works by organizing the composition along a diagonal, incorporating monumental classicizing architecture, and sacrificing individual elements in the interest of the overall design. Titian's working method was also revolutionary, because he developed his compositions by sketching directly on the canvas instead of relying on full-scale preliminary drawings.
Evidence of his growing fame, the duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d'Este, commis­sioned Titian to paint a series of mythological paintings for his study (1518­23). In this period, Titian continued to compose in a dynamic fashion, as seen in the now-destroyed Death of St. Peter Martyr, one of Titian's most celebrated and reproduced paintings. In 1525 Titian married Cornelia and had two sons and a daughter. Probably through his work for Alfonso d'Este, Titian was com­missioned to paint the portrait of his nephew, Federico II Gonzaga,* the marquis of Mantua (Madrid, Prado). Extremely popular as a portraitist, Titian painted portraits of many of the most important people of Venice and elsewhere in the sixteenth century, idealizing them and endowing them with an aristocratic poise to create inventive, heroic, and appealing portraits. The writer Pietro Aretino,* who ardently admired, supported, and publicized Titian's art, helping to spread his name throughout Europe, immediately commissioned a portrait from Titian upon his arrival in Venice in 1527.
Masterpieces from the 1530s include the Presentation of the Virgin (1534­38, Venice, Accademia), which displays a naturalism and artlessness thanks to its clarity of composition, casual figural groups, and realism of lighting. The now-destroyed but much-admired Battle of Spoleto for the ducal palace provided an important source for later battle scenes. During the 1540s Titian displayed a more active interest in overt rhetoric, massive forms, foreshortening, and twist­ing poses, perhaps in response to the growing interest in Mannerism. His brush-work also became increasingly free and his use of color more broken in this period. Titian went to Rome in 1543 and painted a portrait of Pope Paul III and his nephews, but the trip left little impact on him. Back in Venice, as the de­mands on Titian continued to increase, earlier compositions became repeated, and assistants, including his son Orazio, played a larger role in his artistic pro­duction.
In 1548 Titian went to Augsburg for eight months to work for Emperor Charles V* and was knighted for his services; the famous portrait Charles on Horseback was executed during this period. Titian also worked for Charles's son, Philip II,* painting various mythological works that reveal a new sumptuousness in his use of color, perhaps motivated by the mature works of Paolo Veronese.* The Rape of Europa (c. 1562, Boston, Isabella Steward Gardner) shows a remarkable sense of energy and movement, and the apparent sense of spontaneity here and in other paintings was actually the result of a great deal of work. Titian continued to paint until his death in 1576, leaving his last work, an emotional and moving Pieta (Venice, Accademia), probably intended to dec­orate his own tomb, unfinished. While Titian was the last survivor of the High Renaissance, he nonetheless anticipated some of the principles of baroque art. He exercised a strong influence on the next generation of artists, including Tin­toretto* and Veronese, as well as later painters like Peter Paul Rubens* and Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez.
C. Hope, Titian, 1980.
Titian, Prince ofPainters, exhibition catalog, 1990.
H. E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian, 3 vols., 1969-75.
Mary Pixley

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Titian — (1477–1576)    Artist.    Titian learnt painting in Venice under Giovanni Bellini. Giorgione was a fellow student and became a life long friend. During his long life (he lived to be ninety nine), Titian painted many pictures with religious themes …   Who’s Who in Christianity

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