Dubious Historical Starts

April 13, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard


I’ve no idea how or where it came from, but for some reason, I’ve been receiving Newsweek since January. In fact, if you come here and remark upon the bathroom, (as it happens), you will see a slow accumulation of Newsweeks piling up in the magazine rack, slowly invading what has previously only been back issues of artforum, lumpen and the like. 

I can’t complain, I’ve enjoyed grazing the articles, and while I’m a little nervous anticipating a bill come next January, I have managed to suspend my anxiety with the foolish belief that the subscription is an anonymous gift. (Again, I know, it’s foolish, but it seems too complicated to call them up and ask questions, wait on hold in order to ask more questions etc). At any rate, that’s why you’ll see the occasional appearance of Newsweek articles. Like the one I am bout to mention. 

In this article, a recent show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, “Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice” argues a new starting point for Modernism. It was not Manet, apparently, but rather Titian. The show is up until August 16th, and will then move on to Paris. I found the article particularly interesting because it reveals our innate tendency to create discreet beginnings of “movements,” such that they can then be studied as discreet chapters of art/philosophy/culture etc. In some sense the imposition of these “beginnings” is constructed, because they are reliant of definitions. In this case, curator Frederick Ilchman states that a modernist is: “oil on canvas, not done for any specific site, and with the artist, not the patron, choosing the subject matter.” Throughout the course of 56 paintings, he proves his case. 

I’ve posted one paragraph of the article below, which you can click on to read the rest. 


“At the beginning of the Italian Renaissance in Venice early in the 1500s, Titian (born 1488) labored as a talented apprentice in the workshop of Giovanni Bellini, crafter of exquisite, classically serene and balanced paintings of religious subjects on wood panels. Once Titian completed his training and went out on his own, he began to set Venice on its ear with a jazzier style: intensified color patches and virtuoso brushstrokes front and center, and a more 3-D-looking naturalism, all on canvas (lighter weight, larger formats and, when rolled up, extremely portable). Titian scooped up patrons and fame like a Bollywood flick at the Oscars. But then came a challenger, a younger fellow who’d studied briefly in Titian’s own studio and, according to one story, was thrown out because his talent threatened the master. The contender’s father was a dyer—a tinter—so people called the new artist Tintoretto (born 1518). No sooner did the Titian-Tintoretto rivalry reach a fever pitch about the middle of the 16th century than a still-younger gun came to town—one gentleman from Verona nicknamed, naturally, Veronese (born 1528). The competition now was a three-way shootout.”

Also of note, there is an interesting post underneath the article too-

“it is sheer injustice to discuss the concept of venetian art and say grazie to titian and paolo and still ignore GIORGIONE -”

(follow the above link to read the rest of the post)


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