THIS first American biography of Titian and first book in English about him since 1877 treats the human problem as well as the artistic in revitalizing the neglected master who “in many ways was the most fortunate as well as the sanest and most gifted" of Renaissance geniuses.
Aspiring “to do here precisely what Titian so masterfully accomplished: to give as richly colorful, precise, and evocative an impression of my subject as he gave to each theme of his,” Mr. Riggs has not quite succeeded in writing a biography that is to other biographies as a Titan portrait is to other portraits. He has been overwhelmed by his consideration of Titian’s art. He has not conveyed the poignant intensity he felt.
That he does realize the drama in Titian’s life is seen in the two most vivid, concise sections of the book: the introductory essay evaluating Titian and the Renaissance, and the first chapter, depicting the rise and development of Venice to Titian’s birth in 1477.
“Like the mistily perceived pioneers of the mud flats centuries before him, Titian toiled ceaselessly for what he, like them, had the vision to see, the courage and power to grasp and hold. But it was because of the character bred into the city by centuries of daring and struggle that it became a fit matrix for the molding of one of the world’s heroic figures and the greatest painter in most respects that Italian art ever produced.”
Behind the detailed descriptions of pictures, prints of which are the volume’s illustrations, behind the scholarly art criticism and lectures on art appreciation, behind the pertinent information about inspiration, meanings, and values of Titian masterpieces, behind the portraits of friends and associates and the summaries of political events, is sketched the man whose personal dignity, tremendous vitality and incredible productivity, business sagacity, human qualities and friendships, even if we make no account of his towering genius, reveal him as an individual complete in himself who stood for Venice and spoke for her in the language of all mankind, untroubled before pope or king or commoner through a century-long life of intense activity.
A leisurely, authoritative analysis of Titian’s art and historic position, a sincere, unbiased evaluation of Titian’s strengths and weaknesses, failures and successes, a scholarly study that can never quite break away from the books and express unrestrained enthusiasm, this biography is a valuable contribution to our understanding of a master whose influence the greatest of his contemporaries and successors freely acknowledged,