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Jacopo Tintoretto

Italian Painter

Jacopo Tintoretto Photo

Born: 1518/19 - Venice, Italy

Died: May 31, 1594 - Venice, Italy

"Many things come and go, but this great artist remains for us in Venice a part of the company of the mind."

Henry James

Summary of Jacopo Tintoretto

Standing before one of Tintoretto's epic compositions is to be consumed into a world of tumultuous activity, filled with muscular figures interlocked into rhythmic patterns of emotional turmoil and dramatic confrontations. Originally painted to decorate the massive interiors of great halls and sprawling ceilings, the scenes loom threatening to break through the barriers between fictive pictorial space and the physical world. Saint Mark descends from the heavens to protect a defenseless slave, Christ stands amid his disciples and a chaotic scene of attendants during the biblical Last Supper, and even his singular self-portraits which reveal the artist's soul instead of simply displaying his style. Tintoretto's ability to collapse these emotional and physical barriers between the viewer and the viewed put the artist at odds with the established decorum of Renaissance idealism, immediately setting this School of Venice artist apart from the vast majority of his peers. Instead, his agitated brushwork would 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.

Key Ideas

Tintoretto's complex compositions stand in stark contrast to the geometric harmony typical of the Renaissance period. For this reason, the Venetian artist is often associated with the Mannerist style, itself defined by its break from the traditions set by Raphael and Leonardo. However, Tintoretto is equally a product of his home town of Venice, an artistic region known for its dramatic use of light and color and lively approach to staging traditional religious narratives, as the Mannerist style popular in Florence and Rome.
Tintoretto exploits the expressive capacity of the human figure in his expansive compositions, such that it is not merely the face but entire figure which communicates the emotional elements of the scene to the viewer. Where the earlier Renaissance artists reflect the sobriety of Classical Greek art, Tintoretto embraces a highly emotive style which anticipates the 17th-century Baroque period.
Over 400 years before art critic Robert Hughes influential text on modern art, "The Shock of the New," Tintoretto shocked audiences with his radically different approach to painting with speed, dexterity and overt traces of brushwork across the surface of the canvas. Tintoretto's gestural brushwork would also have a profound influence on successive generations of painters, from the theatricality of Diego Velazquez's Baroque tenebrism to the emotional angst and verdant use of color found in the 19th-century Romantic painters such as Eugene Delacroix and Theodore Gericault.
Jacopo Tintoretto Life and Legacy

There are few details known about the childhood and early life of the Italian artist Tintoretto. Born Jacopo Robusti, even the year of his birth is unclear with scholars placing it sometime in either 1518 or 1519. He is known to have been born in Venice, however, making him one of the few iconic artists of the Venetian School to have been born in this city.

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