Colour in Line

britto_portrait.jpg
I haven’t talked much about my Ph. D. dissertation, “Colour in Line — Titian and Printmaking”, here at the Bunker, despite it having occupied my life more than any other intellectual project for the last five years or so. I guess because it is still very much a work in progress, but I figure it might be fun at least to post the official summary here:

This is a study of the prints by, for, and after Titian, produced in his lifetime. It aims to compile and analyse comprehensively the surviving printed works, as well as the available documentation, so as to add significantly to current understanding not only of Titian’s work in prints, but his art as a whole.

The prints are examined in close relation to relevant drawings and paintings, in order to situate them in Titian’s oeuvre and assess their creative and commercial importance to his art. Although a comparatively minor part of his activity, his continual if varying preoccupation with prints signals their relevance throughout his career. The traditional assumption that prints are a secondary product, mostly derivative of other art forms, is here displaced in favour of evidence that the medium at times constituted an end in itself for Titian, providing him with an important creative venue.

The text is structured chronologically, as an evolutionary narrative in the monographic tradition, presenting an alternative account of Titian’s career from the unfamiliar perspective of his prints. The primary concern is to establish a reliable set of attributions and a chronology of the works, as well as to elucidate their not always obvious application or purpose, although a wider interpretive context is embraced in certain cases, situating the work in 16th-century print culture as well as within contemporary theoretical and aesthetic discourse. In addition to close comparative study of the original works in the tradition of connoisseurship, where relevant and possible, technical means of analysis have been applied in collaboration with a number of paper conservators.

Ultimately, it is a study of Titian’s disegno as it manifests itself in prints, written with a conviction of its artistic singularity and importance, not only for Titian, but for Western art.

It is still awaiting examination and it’s going to be interesting to hear what the two fine scholars who are reading it as its first external audience have to say about it. I’m really excited about the work and can’t wait to take it further!

The image is a woodcut by Giovanni Britto after a lost self-portrait by Titian, published 1550.

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