The were many master painters working at the height of the Italian Renaissance. The big three we’ve already learned about and will see first hand in Italy: Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. There are of course many other masters as well. In fact, seeing all the work at museum after museum can be a bit overwhelming. One of the most important other masters whose work we’ll see first hand at the Uffizi in Florence and at the Doge’s palace in Venice is Titian (pronounced Tish-in). Titian was from Venice and was a master of portraiture. He was such a good painter, that he painted the most powerful people in Italy (popes and kings) and received huge commissions for churches and palaces. He also painted more than a few highly controversial masterpieces. He was better than just about anyone at painting flesh, so at least it’s somewhat understandable that he had an obsession with nudity.
One aspect of all painting made before the 19th century that we tend to overlook are the paints themselves. Artists back then couldn’t just walk down to the corner art store and pick up canvases, brushes and tubes of paint. Instead, they had to locate raw pigments and mix them with oil, they had to make brushes and they had to stretch and prepare canvases. Today, artists take for granted how much work it took to even prepare for painting. In the case of Titian (as well as Michelangelo and Raphael), brilliant colors in the paintings reflect some very wealthy patrons. For instance, deep blues, also known as Ultramarine Blue, are made from a natural blue pigment only found in rocks in an obscure valley in Afghanistan. This video is part 1 of 5 that attempts to recreate a Titian painting using his materials and methods. It certainly sheds light on how difficult it was to be an artist, and makes what Titian accomplished even more impressive. Be forewarned- part 3 explores the whole “obsession part” from the end of paragraph 1. Enjoy.