Titian

1477-1576. Italian painter. This widely heralded artist was unique in his versatility. He painted vast altarpieces alive with ecstasy and Christian tenderness, lusty alcove pictures, battle scenes with hundreds of people, and many portraits. His virtuosity made him the most sought-after painter of his time. Always in robust health, he lived to the age of ninety-nine. He was a good husband and father, a faithful friend, and a man of dignity. Early in his life, Titian's father recognized the outstanding talent in his son and sent him to Venice to learn painting. After some study in design and color with a mosaic-maker, Titian went to the studio of Giovanni Bellini. While there, he was more greatly influenced by Bellini's student, Giorgione, whom Titian admired and followed as a friend. Titian became famous with a series of paintings he and Giorgione did for a German warehouse.

Titian's paintings sparkled with a wide range of hues. In painting flesh, his method produced unusually natural results, looking as if the flesh would bleed if touched with a knife. His coloring became the model for later notable Venetians such as Tintoretto, and for the Baroque masters Rubens* and Velasquez. After Raphael's* death, Titian was much in demand. His style developed into an energetic painterly technique. In some of his later group portraits, quick slashing strokes endow the whole canvas with the spontaneity of a first sketch. His uncanny grasp of human nature is also observed in this freer technique. In Christ Crowned with Thorns, a masterpiece of Titian's old age, the shapes emerging from the semi-darkness now consist wholly of light and color; the shimmery surfaces have lost every trace of material solidity and seem aglow from within. Consequently the violent physical action of the moment has been suspended. What lingers in the mind is not the drama of the event, but a mood of deep religious serenity.