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Tintoretto

Jacopo Robusti, Jacopo Comin (Il Furioso)

Tintoretto

Jacopo Robusti, Jacopo Comin (Il Furioso)

Tintoretto's ability to collapse emotional and physical barriers between the viewer and the viewed put the painter at odds with the established decorum of Renaissance idealism, immediately setting this Venetian School artist apart from the vast majority of his peers. His agitated brushwork set the stage for the succeeding generations of artists who would build on his legacy of artistic marksmanship, moving away from an idyllic naturalism toward an increasing sense of abstraction.

There are few details known about the childhood and early life of Tintoretto, born Jacopo Robusti. His father, Giovanni Battista Robusti, was a cloth dyer in Venice. This occupation would influence his son's artistic style surrounding the young Jacopo with colors, pigments, and other artistic mediums from infancy. This trade also inspired the name he would adopt (Tintoretto, 'the little dyer' ) and use in his signature on paintings as well as various documents. Tintoretto's training began sometime in his early teens with a brief stint as an apprentice in the workshop of the famed Venetian painter, Titian. This association did not last long, due to a strong clash of personalities between the old master and the more progressive exuberant and boundary-pushing personality of the young pupil.

Largely self-taught after this experience, Tintoretto would continue to develop his skills in part through making paintings on furniture. In Italy, at the time, there was a great demand for cassoni (ornate chests decorated with paintings), and here Tintoretto developed his distinctive approach characterized by rapidly executed loose brushwork often appearing sketch-like and, at times, incomplete. His gestural style, equated with the lower ranking cassoni painters, left Tintoretto out of favor with some of his fellow Venetian artists and patrons. The writings of the artist Giorgio Vasari, best-known today for his biographies of the Renaissance artists, illustrate just how radical Tintoretto's technique was to his contemporary audience. Vasari writes: "this master at times has left us finished work sketches so rough that the brushstrokes may be seen. Done more by chance and vehemence than with judgment and design." While this passage may read as critical, perhaps to show a preference for the internationally recognized, and considerably more polished technique of Titian, another quote shows Vasari's admiration for the bravura of Tintoretto's brushwork, citing the younger artist as "the most extraordinary brain that the art of painting has produced."

From as early as 1538, there is evidence of Tintoretto having his own workshop and referring to himself as a professional working in Venice. From the outset, the young artist set himself apart from his former teacher Titian, despite the popularity of his rival's accomplishments. Tintoretto's interest in Michelangelo's approach to painting was especially disagreeable to his former master. Tintoretto presented himself in the role of a challenger to the established tradition as embodied by Titian and identified himself instead with the newest ideas circulating in Venetian painting. In the early 1540s that meant emulating contemporary currents in Florence and Rome, and above all Michelangelo, the biggest name in all of the Italian art. Unfortunately, Titian never forgave what he considered Tintoretto's disrespect and attempted on numerous occasions to thwart the younger artist's advancement by blocking Tintoretto's success in obtaining commissions and membership in various organizations.

Despite Titian's disapproval, Tintoretto began to make a name for himself, first through a series of public works in the form of mural fresco paintings. He was able to gain work through charging extraordinarily low fees, often only covering the cost of materials, to gain exposure to a larger audience. This strategy proved successful, as Tintoretto began getting commissions, including many religious works for which he would remain best known, including multiple depictions of the Last Supper, the first of which he created in 1547. His first masterpiece, The Miracle of the Slave (1548), that brought him to the attention of the larger Venetian public and patrons.

As Tintoretto began to prosper professionally, he also flourished in his personal life. He became friends with many of the leading literary figures of the day. Then, around 1550 he married Faustina Episcopi, whose father was affiliated with the Scuola Grande di San Marco confraternity for whom he had created a painting. They would have eight children, three of whom would become artists.

In addition to church commissions, a significant source of employment for Tintoretto and other Venetian painters during the 16th century was for confraternities or scuolas. These organizations played a large role in the cosmopolitan Venetian culture, organized around a variety of purposes ranging from national origin to acts of public service, such as helping the ill and poverty-stricken. Over time, these scuolas acquired great wealth from their affluent members who provided a major source of patronage for the Venetian artists. Although Titian managed to block some of these commissions from Tintoretto, including from the Scuola Grande di San Rocco which Titian secured for himself in 1553, he never actually completed the assignment. Despite this occasion, Tintoretto was able to skillfully navigate the competitive process from which he benefitted greatly throughout his career.

Tintoretto seemed destined to face challenges by other artists despite how impressively his reputation grew. The second major competition came in the form of Paolo Veronese, who arrived in Venice in the late 1550s, publically recognized as Titian's successor. Tintoretto persevered and strengthened his status by focusing on works characteristic of his style that set him apart from the more traditional approaches of Titian and Veronese. In so doing, he made increasingly dramatic works, densely populated with figures creating rhythmic contrasts in light and dark that appeared more Mannerist than Renaissance in style.

Tintoretto often employed questionably ethical means to secure coveted commissions, at times reducing the fee for his paintings enough to undercut other artists. The most notorious example of his strategic ingenuity centered around a competition for a ceiling painting for the new meeting house of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in 1564. The prospectus from the confraternity called for selected artists, including Tintoretto, to submit a sketch for the proposed ceiling painting. Tintoretto, rather than providing a sketch, unveiled his completed panel, already installed on the ceiling. When others objected, he presented the painting as a donation, knowing that the confraternity would be obligated to accept a gift. The strategy worked, and by promising to render all additional paintings for the house for an annual salary of 100 ducats, the artist secured an exclusive contract with numerous commissions over the following two decades. Tintoretto was also admitted into the confraternity in 1565, where he would go on to hold various offices.

Tintoretto was only known to have left Venice once to travel to Mantua, at the age of 62, in 1580. This was four years after the death of his rival, Titian, who had of all the Venetian painters, dominated the international stage. It was during this later period that Tintoretto also received a few important international commissions, including an altarpiece for King Philip II of Spain and four works for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. He also painted an increasing number of non-religious themed paintings during this time. In these later years, he also created portraits and received many commissions from the Venetian state. One of the most notable is a large-scale painting Paradiso (1592) for the Ducal Palace.

As he neared the end of his life, Tintoretto increasingly relied on the help of his studio assistants to finish his paintings, including Paradiso. Most notable of those assistants were three of his nine children: daughter Marietta and sons Domenico and Marco. Ater Tintoretto had died, his sons would continue the work of his studio for many years, perhaps still under the guidance of those words, Tintoretto had inscribed on its wall years before: Il disegno di Michelangelo e il colorito di Tiziano (The drawing of Michelangelo and the coloring of Titian).

Tintoretto left an indelible mark on 16th-century Venetian painting and beyond. His unique approach to artmaking with rapid, loose brushstrokes and strong contrasts between light and dark deeply challenged the traditional style of the iconic master Titian, Paolo Veronese, and his Venetian contemporaries. His bold compositions offered an alternative technique to the hierarchal staging of the traditional Renaissance paintings. Because of this, Tintoretto is associated with the Mannerist painters of the later Renaissance period. His influence was felt long after his own time. Tintoretto's highly dramatic, almost theatrical compositions would serve as inspiration for the development of the 17th-century Baroque art movement. The impact of his gestural style, notable for its obvious traces of his brushwork, reverberates in the passionate style of Diego Velazquez and Peter Paul Rubens. His early self-portrait, dated to 1547, is considered a precedent to those of later artists including Rembrandt, while the contemplative mood of his much later self-portrait, was described by the modernist icon Edouard Manet as "one of the most beautiful paintings in the world."

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Tintoretto (Italian pronunciation: [tintoˈretto]; born Jacopo Comin, late September or early October, 1518 – May 31, 1594) was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Venetian school. The speed with which he painted, and the unprecedented boldness of his brushwork, were both admired and criticized by his contemporaries. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterised by his muscular figures, dramatic gestures and bold use of perspective, in the Mannerist style.

In his youth, Tintoretto was also known as Jacopo Robusti as his father had defended the gates of Padua in a way that others called robust, against the imperial troops during the War of the League of Cambrai (1509–1516). His real name "Comin" was discovered by Miguel Falomir of the Museo del Prado, Madrid, and was made public on the occasion of the retrospective of Tintoretto at the Prado in 2007. Comin translates to the spice cumin in the local language.

Tintoretto was born in Venice in 1518, as the eldest of 21 children. His father, Giovanni, was a dyer, or tintore; hence the son got the nickname of Tintoretto, little dyer, or dyer's boy. The family was believed to have originated from Brescia, in Lombardy, then part of the Republic of Venice. Older studies gave the Tuscan town of Lucca as the origin of the family.

In childhood Jacopo, a born painter, began daubing on the dyer's walls; his father, noticing his bent, took him to the studio of Titian to see how far he could be trained as an artist. This was supposedly around 1533, when Titian was (according to the ordinary accounts) over 40 years of age. Tintoretto had only been ten days in the studio when Titian sent him home for good, because the great master observed some very spirited drawings, which he learned to be the production of Tintoretto; it is inferred that he became at once jealous of so promising a student. This, however, is mere conjecture; and perhaps it may be fairer to suppose that the drawings exhibited so much independence of manner that Titian judged that young Jacopo, although he might become a painter, would never be properly a pupil.

From this time forward the two always remained upon distant terms, though Tintoretto being indeed a professed and ardent admirer of Titian, but never a friend, and Titian and his adherents turned a cold shoulder to him. There was also active disparagement, but it passed unnoticed by Tintoretto. The latter sought no further teaching, but studied on his own account with laborious zeal; he lived poorly, collecting casts, bas-reliefs etc., and practising with their aid. His noble conception of art and his high personal ambition were both evidenced in the inscription which he placed over his studio Il disegno di Michelangelo ed il colorito di Tiziano ("Michelangelo's drawing and Titian's color").

He studied more especially from models of Michelangelo's Dawn, Noon, Twilight and Night, and became expert in modelling in wax and clay method (practised likewise by Titian) which afterwards stood him in good stead in working out the arrangement of his pictures. The models were sometimes taken from dead subjects dissected or studied in anatomy schools; some were draped, others nude, and Tintoretto was to suspend them in a wooden or cardboard box, with an aperture for a candle. Now and afterwards he very frequently worked by night as well as by day.

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Tintoretto Artworks
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