Titian & Modern Abstraction

Titian, Pesaro Altarpiece, 1519-26, oil on canvas, 16.0 ft × 8.8 ft, Santa Maria
Titian, Pesaro Altarpiece, 1519-26, oil on canvas, 16.0 ft × 8.8 ft, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Robert Linsley looks at aspects of Titian's paintings that anticipate modern abstraction.

Linsley writes: "The art historian would explain Titian’s break with the arrangement of the traditional altarpiece... by pointing out that it is part of a larger strategy to raise the status of the artist from medieval craftsman to independent inventor—and Titian was the object of much conversation on this topic even during his life. Words like sovereignty, mastery, and genius hardly seem out of place, but while the contemporary viewer might use those words to describe how the work feels, the scholar who shows us what those same words mean in historical terms can hardly open up the experience of the work any further by doing so. An ahistorical, 'formalist' reading can still grasp the matter fully."