Famous Painters and Paintings: Titian

About the famous renaissance painter Titian, the artist's history and biography.

THE PAINTER: TITIAN (c. 1485-1576)

The art of Titian is for lovers--for all those who delight in the beauty of the female body. Although a master of erotic suggestion, Titian was also a man who felt deeply the call of religious faith. His range was so considerable and his style so varied, that his painting pleases many different tastes.

Titian's career is a success story. A youth from the little Venetian mountain village of Pieve di Cadore, Titian filled numerable commissions. He was court painter to Charles V, a Palatine count, and a knight of the Golden Spur. His success and his example opened the way for similar aristocrats of art--Rubens, Van Dyck, Velazquez and Delacroix--and their debt to him was one of improved status as well as of inspiration.

As is often the case with great men, Titian was perfectly attuned to the time and place in which he lived. He came to Venice at an early age and studied painting with a little-known artist, Sebastiano Zuccato, and then with the brothers Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, who dominated the artistic life of Venice at the turn of the century. He became independent as a painter when he worked with Giorgione, the most fashionable and progressive artist of that day.

Titian was influenced by all his masters, as were most young painters. Though he some-times borrowed elements from their pictures, his frank delight in the natural life around him gave his work a quality all his own. The great Emperor, Charles V, not only became his greatest patron, but also his friend and admirer. Early biographers of Titian tell with awe that Charles V honored Titian by picking up a brush he had dropped. Pietro Aretino, a poet and playwright, who was also the world's 1st gossip columnist, told us much about Titian.

"I marvel at him," wrote Aretino, "for no matter with whom he is or where he finds himself, he always maintains restraint. He will kiss a young woman, hold her in his lap and fondle her. But that's as far as it goes. He sets a good example for us all."

Titian's wife, Cecilia--a barber's daughter from his hometown village of Cadore--was a young woman who had been his housekeeper and mistress for some 5 years. Cecilia had already borne Titian 2 fine sons, Pomponio and Orazio, when in 1525, she fell seriously ill. Titian, wishing to legitimize the children, married her. The marriage was a happy one and Cecilia recovered and bore him 2 more children, both daughters. Only one of them, Lavinia, survived.

Titian died in 1576, a victim of the plague. During the last 25 years of his life, he achieved a new and extraordinary style, one which is all the more surprising in view of his great age.

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