Friday, October 16, 2009

Lest We Not Forget an Artful Past


Art Show Review:
By Shardae Jobson


So who exactly were the painters Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese? We may never know for sure as anyone who knew them well is long gone, but compliments of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the painters were re-introduced as the creative minds and hands of very unique and provoking art achievements. The painters and their work (some of which had never been in view of a public audience before) made their worldwide premiere on March 15, 2009. The exhibit focused on the four decade, three-way rivalry among the above mentioned and most honored painters of the Italian Renaissance. The show that was Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice, ran until August 16, as the MFA displayed another terrific run of undeniable creative triumph. The work of all three painters are celebrated and some previously showcased elsewhere, yet the rivalry that existed and was the sole inspiration behind each individual’s greatest pieces, was an event otherwise established in mainly the art education of scholars and students.

To hear of painters and their stunning talents in willing and apparent competition with each other is interesting to behold, and even more so when you become aware of the fascinating information of production and stories the paintings were based upon. Visitors to the MFA learned much about the painters’ lives, successes and conflict with their fellow peers as facts of a time in history were placed throughout the dimly lit, red velvet colored rooms of the exhibit.

Once you walked into the show, the first display was a large three paragraph description of what all the noise of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese was all about, and why, as a 2009 viewer of art’s luscious past, you should be here. Visitors, viewers, those with a curiosity about the three painters, were of mostly young to middle age and deeply interested in the background of each painting, but also the meticulous detail of the exquisite work.

In the sixteenth century, through constant challenges and competition, the painters influenced each other by often re-interpreting a painting another had already done, showing different abilities and prominence in their own special skills, which resulted in their increasing fame. For the first time, the works of all three were placed side to side so a compare and contrast observation of the same topics and people could take place. Some paintings even came across as literal adaptations with changes only in tones of color and sharpness of detail. In the exhibit, it was written that it would take up to ten years for some pictures to be completed, but the game between the three was always fierce. The outcomes were and are still some of the most revered paintings art and the world have seen such as Titian’s Rape of Lucretia and Venus with a Mirror (which was used as the leading promotional picture in all advertisements for the art show). Veronese’s version of Venus with a Mirror is also a notable piece, as well as Tintoretto’s portrayal of The Last Supper (1594), which is still overshadowed by the notoriety of the one by Leonardo da Vinci. A majority of the paintings depicted stories from the Bible and ancient Rome myths and figures.

Certain paintings were as controversial during their original debut as they are today when in research. While various paintings used the handy help of each painter’s separate apprentices from time to time, parts of paintings were revealed to have probably been solely done by those apprentices more so than their famous teachers. This has been discovered through careful investigation of an artist’s technique, which is usually evident in all their works, until suddenly in one painting an awkward style is present, like the red drape in the upper left hand corner of Titian’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria at Prayer (1567).

Arguably, the most controversial and non-imitated painting of the exhibit was Tintoretto’s Nativity for its largely inelegant execution and cut and paste look. The painting took up half a room of its own with several paragraphs of the deep and fascinating inquiry of how and why the painting looks so haphazard. The mystery of Nativity is not actually obvious at first glance, but with all the attachments by its sides and underneath on how it continues to mystify those in the know about art, you can see there is something just not right about one of the rarely not as great but nonetheless noteworthy pieces of the show.

The last painting standing in the art show ode to the Italian Renaissance, as visitors had stood and moved accordingly, was a self portrait of Tintoretto, who died in 1594, leaving those who witnessed another capsule in art history with a somber but enlightened ending. At the time of its opening in March, Newsweek magazine described the show as “one of the most breathtaking old master exhibitions you’ll ever see”, and this is certainly true of the art that was in display for six months. The rich history of all the paintings gave those who came to the Museum of Fine Arts another stroll (for some long waited, others regular) down art’s voluptuous past and maybe as an afterthought what’s been missing and could be influential in the present 2009 artistic culture and counterculture.

Venus with a Mirror by Titian (1488/1490-1576)

more information about the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston at mfa.org

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