Art, Architecture & Photography TItian: His LIfe by Sheila Hale | Review Roundup | The Omnivore

Published on September 24th, 2012


Titian: His Life by Sheila Hale

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Blurb: Devoted father and loyal friend, Titian was notorious for disregarding authority and was an international celebrity by his late fifties. He was famously difficult but his stubbornness and horrendous timekeeping did nothing to deter his patrons who included the Hapsburgs, the Pope and his family and Charles V. During his career, which spanned more than seventy years, Titian painted around five or six hundred pictures of which less than half survive. His work has been studied by generations of great artists from Rubens to Manet and he is often seen as having artistically transcended his own time. Sheila Hale not only examines his life, both personal and professional, but how his art affected his contemporaries and how it influences artists today. She also examines Venice in its context of a city at the time of the Renaissance, overshadowed artistically by Rome and Florence and growing into the famous historical city it has become. (HarperPress, 2012)

Michael Prodger, The Guardian

“… a superb portrait of the artist — an example of measured scholarship, judicious opinion, and telling framing detail”

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Jonathan Keates, Literary Review

“Magnificent … Its combination of the eminently readable and the profoundly authentic is more remarkable as the achievement of a writer who is not herself a professional art historian. However, better than many art historians, Sheila Hale knows how this kind of thing should be accomplished properly, doing honour to her subject by looking him so confidently in the face.”

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Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

“Although acknowledging contemporary accounts of Titian as “the most obstinate man in Venice”, penny-pinching and overbearing to his two weak-willed sons, Hale’s tone is reverential to the point of hagiography. She corrects some of history’s impertinences — Titian died of fever, not the plague; though grasping, he was a loyal, generous friend — and adds nothing provocative of her own. The result is a portrait of Titian in his time rather than for ours: a sober, probing account, resistant to fashion, which should endure as the standard Life for the next century.”

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Waldemar Januszczak, The Sunday Times

“Hale, you feel, is always happier writing about Venice and its characters than she is deciding upon her subject’s artistic fabric. There’s a hesitancy to her art history that stays her hand … As a feat of research, this relentlessly informative volume sends the dial past herculean. However, Titian’s outline has never been the problem. The problem has been his essence. And in that deeply mysterious territory there remains space for a definitive voice.”

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Mark Hudson, The Telegraph

“If the book doesn’t get us much closer to Titian as a human being, that’s hardly surprising. Devastating revelations about such distant events can’t be summoned out of thin air. More critically, Hale doesn’t attempt to make a case for what Titian means now or why we should be paying attention to him, beyond endless reiterations of his greatness and the “protean” nature of his genius which feel over-indebted to hagiographic earlier biographies. Rather than imposing an original, new view of Titian, Hale offers a scrupulous and exhaustive account that is informed by the latest scholarship, but admirably free of academic cant.”

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Fisun Güner, The Independent

“By about the 80th page, you begin to wonder whether this isn’t the biographical equivalent of Where’s Wally?For amid the cast of characters fleshing out the first four chapters of Sheila Hale’s weighty, reverential account of the life and times of Titian, the great Venetian artist has been given neither a speaking part nor barely a spear-carrying — or paintbrush-wielding — one. The artist appears as the shadowy companion to the thing that really seems to fascinate this biographer, Venice itself.”

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