Tintoretto was an artist of immense output and dramatic style who emerged from the Venetian School of painting. He was one of the best known Venetian painters next to Titian (1485 – 1576), having very briefly trained under the master. Tintoretto had high ambitions, and adorned an inscription in his studio that said, “Michelangelo’s design and Titian’s Color.” In this he sought to produce the brilliant compositional methods of Michelangelo, while using the bold coloring of Titian; a goal of the highest order for Renaissance painting. He is often said to herald a Baroque style of painting.
Tintoretto was born Jacopo Comin and called Jacopo Robusti in youth, but artistically he was often called Il Furioso, for the fury in which in painted. He may have trained with Titan in 1553, but it is said the master sent him home after a brief ten days because of his obvious talents. He may have also trained with the Venetian painters, Bonifacio Veronese (1487 – 1557), Paris Bordone (1500 – 1571), and worked closely with, thus influenced by, Andrea Meldolla, called Il Schiavone (1510 – 1563). Though throughout all of this, Tintoretto developed a highly independent style and worked reclusively, rarely sharing his methods.
In order to bring great detail and spatial perspective to his work, Tintoretto molded wax models and experimented with their appearance in light. This gave his work an exaggerated feel in light and movement, achieving something much different from his goal of design and color. Kren and Marx of the Web Gallery of Art remark, “his drawings, unlike Michelangelo’s detailed life studies, are brilliant, rapid notations, bristling with energy and his colour is more sombre and mystical than Titian’s.”
While producing much work early on, the three works that gave Tintoretto acclaim were painted for the Scuola Grande di San Marco in 1548. The works depicting Saint Mark, Finding the body of Saint Mark in Alexandria and Saint Mark’s Body Brought to Venice, are exemplary of the artist’s dramatic use of perspective and space. The third piece, The Miracle of Saint Mark Freeing the Slave, shows his skillful use of fore-shortening and bold contrasts between light and shading.
This led Tintoretto to the painting of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, where he completed an incredible breadth of work, off and on between 1564 up until his death in 1594. A short list of notable works Tintoretto painted here include the Crucifixion, Annunciation, St. Roch presented to the Pope, St. Roch taken to Prison, The Pool of Bethesda, St. Roch curing the plague victims, St. Roch comforted by an Angel, St. Roch in Solitude, and St. Roch healing the Animals, but the many masterful works of his in the church are too many to list here. Among other artists that Tintoretto worked with in the church were Paolo Veronese (1528 – 1588), and together with Titian’s past work, they became know as the essence of the Venetian School of painting.
Tintoretto also painted his grandest single piece, Paradise, a massive painting noted as the largest ever created on canvas. He also produced a good amount of portrait pieces. Of his work now in the Uffizi Gallery is Portrait of a Man, (1546), Leda and the Swan, Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, The Samaritan Woman, Portrait of a Venetian Admiral, Portrait of a Man with a Red Beard, Portrait of Jacopo Sansovino, and Saint Augustine Heals the Cripples, (attributed to Domenico Robusti, called Tintoretto).