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Tintoretto's 500th anniversary is celebrated by a string of exhibitions worldwide

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To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Venetian Renaissance painter Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/19−1594), Paris, Venice, New York and Washington present major exhibitions in 2018 and 2019 to pay tribute to one of the greatest artists of the sixteenth century and explore the artist’s achievements as painter and draftsman.
From 7 March 2018 to 30 June 2019 Tintoretto’s art will be celebrated throughout the world, starting from the early success of his youth (in the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris and Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice) to the creative productivity of his later years (Palazzo Ducale, Venice and National Gallery of Art, Washington), with an integrated itinerary of masterpieces coming from major private and public collections throughout the world, such as the Louvre, the Prado and the National Gallery of London.

"Tintoretto. Birth of a genius"

Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, France
March 7-July 1, 2018

Hosted by France’s oldest museum the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, the jubilee exhibition "Tintoretto. Birth of a genius" showcases the mesmerising early work of Jacopo Robusti who adopted nickname 'tintoretto' meaning 'the little dyer'.

Father of a young artist was a cloth-dyer, a common and respectable occupation in Renaissance Venice, so Jacopo has got artisan background since his childhood. Actually, a little is known of his artistic training. Some sources report that he was expelled from Titian’s workshop after a short period, as a result either of the jealousy or incomprehension of his master. The other consider that he was trained in the workshop of a lesser-known artist.

Anyways, it’s obvious that Jacopo Tintoretto was aware of the work of Venice’s prominent painters and other Italian masters since his youth. By 1539, he was working as an independent professional artist in his signature quick, abbreviated style. His intentional lack of conventional finish was seen by some as careless and caused controversy among his contemporaries. Art historians claim that throughout much of his career, he sought to combine Michelangelo’s drawing style with Titian’s use of color while developing his own style.

Tintoretto is often associated by experts with Mannerism, an artistic style from the late Renaissance that makes use of strongly dramatic subjects and depicts human figures in exaggerated proportions and poses. However, Tintoretto’s individualistic style sets him apart from that movement: although he sacrifices harmony for the bedlam of drama, his scenes are glued by the symmetry. In his works, chaos is tempered by choreography, disorder by discipline.

The priceless loans from the world’s greatest museums were brought to Paris for the exhibition "Tintoretto. Birth of a genius", including works from Amsterdam, Budapest, London, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Venice, Washington and Vienna.
One of Tintoretto’s early masterpieces dating from 1541−42 was loaned by the Milano’s Grande Museo del Duomo for the display in Paris. Even though "The Dispute with Jesus and the Doctors in the Temple of Jerusalem" shows Christ as an insubstantial figure dwarfed by two faux-Michelangelo giants in an unqualified failure of scale, proportion and perspective, the painting is still very interesting to view.

Art historians recognized two portraits of illustrious personages of the time in it: Titian in the group on the left, wrapped in a light-coloured cape, who is shown turning round; Michelangelo in the foreground, leaning over the book, and the self-portrait of Tintoretto himself, behind Titian, looking towards the spectators.
"Young Tintoretto"
Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, Italy

7 September 2018−6 January 2019

The Gallerie dell’Accademia will continue to display the "young Tintoretto", with reference, in particular, to the decade from 1538 to 1548. This period is highlighted by one of the key works of the artist’s youth — "The miracle of the slave", with its extraordinary colors, chiaroscuro contrasts and complex figural composition.

Even though art historians describe Tintoretto as a Mannerist for his obsession with style and technique in figural compositions, the artist’s striving for effect in this picture is less in the cause of stylishness and more for the sake of narrative drama.
"Tintoretto: the Artist of Venice at 500"
Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Italy National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA
7 September 2018−6 January 2019 3 March 2019−30 June 2019

"Tintoretto: The Artist of Venice at 500" will open first at the Palazzo Ducale, Venice, beginning in September 2018, and then will travel to the National Gallery of Art in Washington in the spring of 2019, showcasing nearly 50 paintings and more than a dozen drawings spanning the artist’s entire career. It will be the first retrospective of the artist in North America.

The rich selection of domestic and international loans ranging from regal portraits of Venetian aristocracy to religious, mythological, and historical narrative scenes will present Tintoretto as one of the "Big Three" 16th-century Venetian painters alongside Titian and Paolo Veronese. Exploring the artist’s working methods, the exhibition curators — experts Robert Echols, independent scholar, and Frederick Ilchman, chair of the Art of Europe department and Mrs. Russell W. Baker, Curator of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts from Boston — will separate art works by Tintoretto from those painted by his assistants and followers frequently misattributed to the master.

Thanks to Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman art lovers will get new and more accurate understanding of Tintoretto’s oeuvre and chronology. In 2018, a fully illustrated exhibition catalog will be published in English and Italian with a range of essays by the curators and other leading scholars as well as new research and scientific studies of Tintoretto’s work.
Palazzo Ducale in Venice owns four mythological allegories (permanently exhibited) that Tintoretto painted around 1577 to extol the unity and glory of the Venetian Republic. Placed in the Sala dell’Anticollegio, their allegorical significance was legible to those awaiting audience with the Doge of his councilors.

Along with 11 other canvases, these four paintings have now been restored by the US conservation charity Save Venice in preparation for the forthcoming exhibitions and returned to their original chromatic brightness. To mark the 500th anniversary year, the organisation is also publishing a leaflet detailing all the Venetian churches that contain works by Tintoretto.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco: Sala Superiore with ceiling. The ceiling of the sala consists of thirteen canvases by Tintoretto with another eight by Guiseppe Angeli (painted between 1577−78). The walls are decorated with ten large canvases by Tintoretto.
Curators of the forthcoming exhibitions will focus on Tintoretto’s creative process with much attention. Frederick Ilchman says that "Tintoretto paints so freely and with such confidence, one might assume that he did no drawings or planning. That is not the case." In fact, the artist has done a lot of work in his preparation time. And the experts will show viewers "how he would copy Michelangelo sculptures, make dioramas to study composition, take mannequins and suspend them from the ceiling to plan his compositions."

Still the illusion of spontaneity persists in Tintoretto’s art. When English thinker John Ruskin visited the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, his verdict was: "I don’t believe it took him ten minutes to invent and paint a whole length. Away he goes, heaping host on host, multitudes that no man can number—never pausing, never repeating himself—clouds and whirlwinds and fire and infinity of earth and sea."
"John Ruskin"
Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Italy
10 March 2018−10 June 2018

Ruskin was conquered by the beauty of Venice and amazed by Tintoretto’s paintings. He wrote his famous book "The Stones of Venice" which contributed much to create the myth of the city and to revive Tintoretto’s fame. Although the artist was admired and sought after during his lifetime, he was relegated by scholars among the less important painters. However, Ruskin wrote about him with such a great admiration that made him known all over the world, especially in the Anglo Saxon countries.

To express gratitude to the great scholar and critic Ruskin, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco together with the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Guild of St George in the UK, decided to begin the celebration of two anniversaries — the quincentenary of Jacopo Tintoretto’s birth (1518/19) and the bicentenary of John Ruskin’s (1819) — a year early in 2018. The first to be remembered is John Ruskin.
Best known to public for his gigantic religious and mythological works, Tintoretto, however, was a skillful portrait painter. Ilchman and Echols’s exhibition "Tintoretto: The Artist of Venice at 500" will reveal this side of his artistic talent as well. "Every English country house collection, every auction catalogue includes mediocre portraits masquerading as works by Tintoretto. We’re making the claim that at his best he deserves to be recognised alongside other great portrait painters like Raphael and Bronzino," Ilchman says.
"Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice"
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York National Gallery of Art, Washington
October 12, 2018-January 6, 2019
March 3-May 26, 2019

"Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice" will be the first exhibition to focus specifically on Tintoretto’s work as a draftsman. Providing new ideas about his evolution in drawing, the show will disclose new information about the dating and function of the so-called "sculpture drawings," and define Tintoretto’s place in the Venetian tradition.

Drawings by Tintoretto’s predecessors and contemporaries, including Titian, Veronese, and Jacopo Bassano, will provide the Renaissance context he worked in to show his sources and define his individuality. Tintoretto’s distinctive figure drawings are the heart of the show, which includes both preparatory drawings and his studies of heads and entire figures after sculptures by Michelangelo and other famous sculptors of his day.
As the art critic Raffaello Borghini noted in his book "Il Riposo", published in 1584, ten years before Tintoretto’s death, the artist made drawn copies after sculptures by Jacopo Sansovino, Michelangelo and Giambologna. The artist’s biographer Carlo Ridolfi adds that Tintoretto acquired several casts and sculptural models, often at considerable expense. Artist’s son Domenico specifically mentioned his father’s large collection of casts and clay modelli after antique and Renaissance sculptures as ‘rilievi del studio', in his will drawn up in 1630.
Tintoretto seems to have drawn sculptures obsessively, from different perspectives and in different lighting conditions. He sometimes hung them from the ceiling in his studio to study the effects of foreshortening or put small wax ones in tiny houses illuminated by candles placed outside to learn the lurid, diaphanous light effects. This particularly three-dimensional way of studying the figure served him well in his drawings, and in the paintings for which they were preparatory.

The exhibition "Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice" also considers artists whose drawing style was influenced by Tintoretto’s, particularly his son Domenico Tintoretto and Palma Giovane. Also there will be the work of the young El Greco, dating from his time in Venice, proposed recently as connected with Tintoretto and his followers.
Francesco Parmigianino. The Boy and Two Old Men
Giuseppe Scolari. The Rape of Proserpina
  • Parmigianino, The Boy and Two Old Men, first half of the 16th century. National Gallery of Art, Washington.
  • Giuseppe Scolari, The Rape of Proserpina, 1590/1607. National Gallery of Art, Washington.
"Venetian Prints in the Time of Tintoretto"
National Gallery of Art, Washington
March 3-May 26, 2019

To complete the panorama of Venetian art in the time of Tintoretto, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC will mount an exhibition presenting some 40 prints from the second half of the 16th century, ranging from the exquisite etchings of Parmigianino and his immediate followers, to the spectacular woodcuts of Giuseppe Scolari, most from the Gallery’s own collection. Serving as a critical source for Tintoretto’s artistic formation, they will reveal parallel developments toward a distinctively Venetian mannerism, and show striking graphic responses to the dynamism and expressiveness of Tintoretto’s style.
Written on materials of museum’s websites: Wallraf Museum, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Musee du Luxembourg, Museo del Duomo Milano, Museo del Prado, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, and other sources: Save Venice Inc.,,,, Financial Times.

Titile illustration: Jacopo Tintoretto, Self-Portrait, c. 1588, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre- Départment des Peintures.
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