In the Age of Giorgione
12 March – 5 June 2016
Celebrating the work of the unsung hero of 16th century Venetian art.
Titian is heralded as the star of the Venetian school of painting yet, as this exhibition asserts, his achievements were indebted to the work of his contemporary, the lesser known Giorgione.
Giorgione's talents were recognised from an early age and he was won commissions to produce portraits for important patrons when he was just 23. After moving to Venice he studied under pioneering painter Bellini, by then aged 70, whose success was helping position the city as a rival to Florence – the artistic capital of the time.
The young apprentice was even more radical than his master. Striving to recreate the expressive qualities of poetry Giorgione prioritised mood and feeling over traditional narratives, rendering his canvases in sensuous, glowing colour. This approach would later become the calling card of the Venetian school.
Giorgione's sudden death in his early 30s meant his career was dramatically cut short and, as the city ushered in an artistic golden age, it was Titian instead who took the helm.
While the late painter remained highly revered among the Venetian school artists who applauded and embraced his techniques, the true force of his accomplishments has been diminished by problems of attribution – early works by Giorgione and Titian are often indistinguishable and so today only six definitely bear the former's name.
This spring the Royal Academy brings Giorgione's key masterpieces together with those painted by Titian, Giovanni Cariani, Lorenzo Lotto and Tullio Lombardo in order to pay tribute to his remarkable influence on 16th century artistic practice.
An unusual addition to the display is the work of German painter, printmaker and draughtsman, Albrecht Dürer. Fascinated by the artistic developments unfolding in Italy at the time, he visited Venice twice and sought inspiration from the painters he met there. In turn, the Venetian artists were impressed by his painstaking attention to detail, which they then aimed to emulate in their own practice.