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Titian: His Life Hardcover – 5 Jul 2012
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‘Crammed with new or expanded or re-thought information about this stubbornly mysterious giant. Impressive … She shines a light on the mysterious conflict of energies that makes his genius so difficult to encapsulate. Hale is also an enthusiastic collector of characters and her descriptions of the band of Renaissance crackpots who constituted Titian’s employers result in some of the book’s most entertaining stretches‘ Sunday Times
‘Evokes the sensuality of Titian’s working methods and provides subtle insights into his enigmatic last paintings … a scrupulous and exhaustive account that is informed by the latest scholarship, but admirably free of academic cant … her book provides by far the richest account yet of Titian’s interactions with the city’s labyrinthine social fabric‘ Daily Telegraph
‘Magnificent … the elegance and energy of her narrative … a born biographer’s eye for detail. This is the first serious attempt for 100 years at encompassing Titian’s life. Its combination of the eminently readable and the profoundly authentic is remarkable‘ Literary Review
‘A huge and exceptional new study of the painter … a superb portrait of the artist – an example of measured scholarship, judicious opinion, and telling framing detail‘ Guardian
‘The depth of her research is both impressive and astonishing … enriched by vivid anecdotes and gossipy snippets … it all makes for compelling reading‘ Independent
‘Scholarly, erudite, endlessly inquisitive and as clear as can be … many of the bit-part players in the book are brilliantly vivid’ Mail on Sunday
‘Magisterial … a poised and sincere account of Titian’s life and art. A truly triumphal undertaking and a prodigious monument to one of the giants of Western art’ The Art Newspaper
From the Back Cover
Born in the mountains above Venice in the late fifteenth century, Tiziano Vecellio--or Titian--was the greatest painter of the Venetian High Renaissance. A poetic visionary and a technical master of oils, he painted everything, from frescoes and grand altarpieces to mythological stories and portraits--works described by his contemporaries as "mirrors of nature."
Sheila Hale's rich biography is the first since 1877 to examine all contemporary accounts of Titian's life and work as well as recent art historical scholarship, some of it previously unpublished. Her book charts the extraordinary transformation of Titian's style: from the radiant, minutely realized masterpieces of his youth, to the more freely painted work of his middle years, to the dark, tragic, sometimes terrifying visions of his old age. Drawing on the latest scientific examinations of his paintings, Hale seeks to explain the evolution of his methods and his art. In doing so, she also gives many different voices--from Titian's lifetime to today--free reign to explore, praise, and sometimes doubt his genius.
When Titian died in 1576, in his late eighties, he had spent the whole of his working life in Venice--the most celebrated city in Europe--traveling as little as possible despite the clamor for his presence at the great courts of the continent. He had witnessed wars, Ottoman invasions, and the rising Protestant threat to the Catholic Church. He had become the favored painter of both Charles V--the most powerful man in the world--and his son, Philip II of Spain, who became Titian's most important patron.
Sheila Hale's masterly biography presents Titian through the lens of the turbulent times in which he lived and explores how this innovative sixteenth-century master conveyed in his paintings a kind of truth that few other artists have been able to communicate, which has fascinated Titian's admirers and followers ever since.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
Top customer reviews
That doesn't, of course, prevent Sheila Hale from giving an extremely thorough account of his career and artistic development. It's always difficult to be exhaustive without being exhausting, especially when charting a career which lasted more than half a century, and there are sections where the casual reader can be tempted to skip ahead, but patient reading rewards those who want to better understand the paintings and their subjects. If you've ever stood spellbound before his penetrating portraits or gorgeous classical scenes bursting with lively colour, then reading about how they came to be, and how the artist achieved his remarkable effects, is fascinating, and adds rather than subtracts from the magic of the paintings themselves. Hale structures the book into lengthy Parts covering phases in Titian's career, further organised into shorter chapters which delve into a particular aspect of either his work, the history of the times, or the story of particular people (patrons, family members, and artists) whose paths crossed with Titian. Most of the time, the chapters are attached to one or a group of works, and will include an explanation of the background to their creation, the techniques used, and, often, the reaction of patrons and contemporaries. This means it is fairly straightforward to follow in a linear fashion, but certainly possible to navigate to the section on a particular work if you are so inclined.
An inevitable consequence of the lack of gossip and scandal attached to Titian (compared to Caravaggio or Michelangelo's reputations) is that Hale broadens her focus and gives us an enormous amount of information about contemporaries, and about the Venice and Northern Italy of the time. Titian's close friend the poet Pietro Aretino is a character who leaps from the page, being talented, funny, irreverent, and arrogant to the point of hubris. Various ambassadors and aristocrats describe the city, the man, and the era. Angry satires, pleas for payment, rude curses, subtle diplomatic letters, and vulgar gossip fly back and forth. Aretino, Titian, and the architect Sansovino, who were close friends, come to life through this trail of written material, and Hale is an expert guide, always able to contextualise and explain what's happening in their careers and in Europe as a whole at the time. One of the book's great strengths is that you could probably skip everything about Titian himself and still find it interesting and informative on the politics, art, and daily life of Venetians in the 16th Century.
A great if lengthy read. I felt like I learned a lot about Titian's work , but also a lot about how artists worked in the period, and the crossovers between art, religion, politics, and commerce in the period, which can be bafflingly complex. Despite the difficulties, something of his personality seems to shine through, too: charming, hard-working but wilful, loyal to his friends but sometimes a tyrant to his family, and a bit of a wheeler-dealer, who also happened to paint stunningly beautiful pictures and never quite gave a patron exactly what they expected. Fascinating.
I was surprised at just how many illustrations were included in the book and even more surprised when a glance at the reviews on Amazon I noticed a plethora of complaints about the lack of illustrations in this book. If a reviewer has the equipment to post a review on the Amazon site s/he must also have available the internet on which, with very little effort, can be found beautiful reproductions of any of works by Titian the complainers wished to examine. One of the reasons it has taken me rather longer than usual to post this review is that I have found myself moving from the book to internet to wallow, with increased appreciation [thanks to Hale], in a full screen image of works by Titian. Along side an increased understanding of Titian there is much to learn and enjoy in this book about Titian's contemporaries and friends. Venice has always been and remains the most beautiful city in the world - as Hale reveals the people who have lived in it are as fascinating as its wonderful buildings and canals.fjs
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