Who is Titian?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Titian was an Italian Renaissance painter, widely considered to be among the most accomplished of European painters. During his long lifetime, which spanned almost 100 years, Titian produced a massive body of work marked by complex themes, stunning use of color, and accomplished painting skills. Many art historians have noted that his work matured and changed radically over the course of his lifetime, perhaps because by the time he died, he had been painting for approximately 80 years.

Woman painting
Woman painting

The exact birth date of Titian is a disputed topic, because he often made misleading comments about his age and birthday. It has been estimated to be around 1490, and possibly earlier. He was born Tiziano Vecelli in Cadore, a small Italian village which was later incorporated into his nickname, Da Cadore, meaning “of Cadore.” At a relatively young age, Titian was sent to Venice to study with a painter, along with his brother.

The young painter soon showed incredible skill, and he quickly found himself commissioned to create paintings, frescoes, and triptychs for altars. A triptych is an artwork which is divided into three sections or panels, and one of Titian's earliest commissions was actually was a fresco triptych for the city of Padua. Unlike many other Renaissance artists, Titian focused on painting, and he did not appear to dabble in print making, etching, and other forms of artistic expression. His lush, detailed paintings can be seen in museums all over the world, and in situ in the case of frescoes.

Titian was incredibly celebrated during his lifetime, and he was widely regarded as a master of painting. His fame apparently netted numerous commissions and patrons, although he was allegedly a bit miserly with it. Contemporaries described Titian as somewhat avaricious and selfish, and he had several well known rivalries with other artists, including Tintoretto, who very briefly trained with Titian before being turned out of his workshop.

Among Italian Renaissance painters, Titian is regarded as one of the finest, and he had a lasting impact. His use of layers of color to create subtle shading and brilliantly illuminated works was often copied, and his favorite color, a rich reddish brown, was later named after him. Titian's portraits were often admired for their sensitivity and unique perspective, and his work often reinterpreted classical allegories in innovative ways. Titian's work demonstrates a mastery of dynamic, energetic painting and it commands the attention of the viewer in a truly distinct way, whether the piece is an early Titian or one of his later, more somber works.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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