The Last Days
by Mark Hudson
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Towards the end of his life Titian didn't finish his paintings. The elderly artist kept them in his studio, never quite completing them, as though wanting to endlessly postpone the moment of letting go. Created with the fingers as much as the brush, Titian's last paintings are imbued with a sense of final, desperate effort - a rawness and immediacy that weren't to be seen again in art for centuries.
But what did Titian, who experienced as much in the way of material success as any artist before or since, mean by these works? Are they a harrowing, final testament or simply a collection of unfinished paintings? In the outbreak of plague that finally killed him, Titian's studio was looted, and many paintings taken. What happened to them is not known.
This book is a quest - a journey through Titian's life and work, towards the physical and spiritual landscape of his last paintings. Looking at Titian's relationships with his artistic rivals, his patrons - including popes, kings and emperors - and his troubled dealings with his own family, the narrative moves from the artist's hometown in the Dolomites to the greatest churches and palaces of the age. Parallel with these physical travels is a journey through the paintings, following the glittering trajectory of Titian's life and career, the remorseless formal development that led to the breakthroughs of his last days.
Titian: The Last Days is an exploratory history of the artist and his world that vividly recreates the atmosphere of sixteenth-century Venice and Europe, a narrative in which the search for the subject becomes part of the subject itself. The result is a brilliant and compelling study of one of Europe's greatest artists that is at once passionate, engaging and deeply personal.
- Bloomsbury Publishing, October 2010
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