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Who was Tintoretto?

Tintoretto was an Italian artist who spent most of his time in his Venice studio.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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Tintoretto was an Italian artist who worked during the 16th century. He is considered to be among the great Renaissance artists of Italy, and examples of his work hang in several major museums. Since Tintoretto also worked on frescoes, it is also possible to visit his artwork in various churches. He had a distinctive energetic style which met with a great deal of criticism at the time, but it distinguishes his work today; once one becomes familiar with Tintoretto's style, his work is unmistakable.

Tintoretto was born Jacopo Comin, but he quickly acquired the nickname “Tintoretto” as a child, in reference to his father's profession as a dyer, or tintore. Even as a young child, the “dyer's boy” began to demonstrate immense artistic skill, and he was briefly apprenticed with Titian, another well known artist of the period. However, Tintoretto displayed a mind of his own, and Titian allegedly dismissed him because his independence made him a poor choice of apprentice, although Titian recognized his potential as an artist.

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In the early stages of his career, Tintoretto closely studied the work of other painters, and he also mastered the art of modeling, which allowed him to set up complex scenes to paint without having to worry about the discomfort of living subjects. Many of Tintoretto's works are vast in scale, with large numbers of people, often contorted into unusual or uncomfortable positions, and modeling no doubt assisted him with this. He also worked for minimal pay in an effort to get patrons and get his work publicized.

Considering that Tintoretto had no formal training, the quality of his work is incredible. His savage, very active painting style earned him another nickname, “Il Furioso,” but he also displayed immense technical skill. In his surviving artworks, a mastery of perspective, color theory, and composition can be clearly seen. He was also extremely prolific, producing a huge body of work including numerous large scale pieces. His 1588 painting Paradise is believed to be the largest painting on canvas in the world, measuring 72 feet (22 meters) by 22 feet (7 meters).

In addition to being a very talented artist, Tintoretto was also found of other arts such as music, and he was a tinkerer, playing with an assortment of mechanical objects throughout his lifetime. He was also said to have been very generous to the poor, despite being a bit of a misanthrope. Tintoretto spent most of his life in his Venice studio, which was usually closed to guests and friends, although he reportedly kept cats, which may have kept him company while he worked.

Tintoretto's vast body of work was a major contribution to Renaissance art and culture. His style also broke sharply from traditional art, using light, color, and action in new and often stunning ways. It is clear that other artists were inspired by the work of Tintoretto, and they continue to be to this day.

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