Jacopo Tintoretto Biography | Oil Paintings.

10-4-1518 Venice, ITA – 5-31-1594 Venice, ITA

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Tintoretto, Jacopo

Jacopo Tintoretto was born Jacopo Comin (Comin translates to the spice cumin), but in his youth, Tintoretto was known as Jacopo Robusti, because his father had defended the gates of Padua in a “robust” way, during the War of the League of Cambrai. The son of a tintore (clothes-dyer), Jacopo Comin, nicknamed Tintoretto, meaning 'little dyer' was the most exuberant and prolific Venetian painter of the second half of the sixteenth century.

At the age of fifteen, Tintoretto was a pupil of Titian, already fifty-six years old, for only ten days. Titian kicked him out of the studio because the great master observed some extremely lively illustrations and to have been envious of the young boy's talents. From this time forward the two always remained on distant terms, never friends, and although Tintoretto was an impassioned admirer of Titian, he and his followers turned the cold shoulder to Tintoretto.

So, Jacopo Tintoretto was largely self-taught, although he was influenced by Titian as well as Michelangelo and Jacopo Sansovino. Aside from two outings to Mantua, he spent his whole working life in Venice, painting religious subjects and contemporary portraits. From the very beginning of his long career, his work is characterized by its muscular figures, dramatic gestures, and bold use of the perspective in the Mannerist style, while maintaining the color and light typical of the Venetian School.

Tintoretto's secret, Titian's color, Michelangelo's drawing.

He never shied away from large-scale undertakings and summed up his “plan of attack” on a sign pinned to the wall of his studio: “Titian's color, Michelangelo's drawing”. This eclectic and ambitious aim met with the approval of the Venetian public, as is proven by his dozens of works in Venetian churches, the imposing commissions in the Scuola Grande di San Marco and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, and especially by his decoration of the Doge's Palace after the devastating fire in 1577.

In 1564, Tintoretto won the competition for the decoration of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. He thus began an undertaking that was to absorb most of his creative energy for over twenty years. The dozens of canvases in the three halls of the Scuola display the artist's transition from the descriptive realism of his early paintings to the visionary power of his later works. From Adoration of the Shepherds to The Flight into Egypt, his style improved. But this painting, St. Mark Rescuing the Slave, destined for the Scuola Grande di San Marco, made his reputation as a leading exponent of the Venetian school.

His most ambitious project was the series of 50 paintings for the Church and School of San Rocco, but his fame rests on the crowning production of Paradise, nearly 70 x 30 feet in size, it is one of the largest oil paintings ever done on canvas. It is a work so stupendous in scale, so colossal in the sweep of its power, that it has defied the connoisseurs of three centuries.

He was a master of dark tones illuminated by adroit gleams of light. Three of his children became artists, including his daughter Marietta, known as La Tintoretta. His output was phenomenal and he painted with great rapidity and sureness of brushstrokes, earning him a second nickname of 'Il Furioso'. Tintoretto developed a fast painting technique known as prestezza, using a fast brushstroke and less detail when painting impressions of faces and objects in the background, somewhat similar to the background being slightly out of focus in a photograph. Christ Washing The Feet Of The Disciples shows the background figures painted with the prestezza technique. Spending less time on detail allowed him to paint more smaller works, to respond to a growing demand from his clients, while he was engaged on large projects.

The role played by Tintoretto in the late Venetian Renaissance was decisive and controversial. His unique style and innovative solutions, when imitated by less talented artists, became monotonous and restrictive. Although it was not Tintoretto's fault that the Venetian School suddenly lost impetus after his death, he himself seemed to foresee its decline. His later works, after the death of Titian and Veronese, are shrouded in the mystery and magic of supernatural worlds.

The “secret” of Tintoretto's unusual perspectives and the clever arrangement of groups of figures was his use of miniature wooden models that he constructed with puppets made of wax and cloth, illuminated in bizarre ways to simulate the painting. Finding of the Body of St. Mark is a good example of this technique, note, to the left of the body of St. Mark looms his ghost.

Art Movement: Renaissance, Mannerism.
Artists Influencing Tintoretto: Titian, Michelangelo, Jacopo Sansovino.
Painters Tintoretto Influenced: Martin de Vos, El Greco.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.

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