Knights of the Art
We have seen how most of the great painters loved to paint into their pictures those
scenes which they had known when they were boys, and which to the end of their lives
they remembered clearly and vividly. A Giotto never forgets the look of his sheep on the
bare hillside of Vespignano, Fra Angelico paints his heavenly pictures with the colours of
spring flowers found on the slopes of Fiesole, Perugino delights in the wide spaciousness
of the Umbrian plains with the winding river and solitary cypresses.
So when we come to the great Venetian painter Titian we look first with interest to see in
what manner of a country he was born, and what were the pictures which Nature mirrored
in his mind when he was still a boy.'
At the foot of the Alps, three days' journey from Venice, lies the little town of Cadore on
the Pieve, and here it was that Titian was born. On every side rise great masses of rugged
mountains towering up to the sky, with jagged peaks and curious fantastic shapes. Clouds
float around their summits, and the mist will often wrap them in gloom and give them a
strange and awesome look. At the foot of the craggy pass the mountain-torrent of the
Pieve roars and tumbles on its way. Far-reaching forests of trees, with weather-beaten
gnarled old trunks, stand firm against the mountain storms. Beneath their wide-spreading
boughs there is a gloom almost of twilight, showing peeps here and there of deep purple
Small wonder it was that Titian should love to paint mountains, and that he should be the
first to paint a purely landscape picture. He lived those strange solemn mountains and the
wild country round, the deep gloom of the woods and the purple of the distance beyond.
The boy's father, Gregorio Vecelli, was one of the nobles of Cadore, but the family was
not rich, and when Titian was ten years old he was sent to an uncle in Venice to be taught
some trade. He had always been fond of painting, and it is said that when he was a very
little boy he was found trying to paint a picture with the juices of flowers. His uncle,
seeing that the boy had some talent, placed him in the studio of Giovanni Bellini.
But though Titian learned much from Bellini, it was not until he first saw Giorgione's
work that he dreamed of what it was possible to do with colour. Thenceforward he began
to paint with that marvellous richness of colouring which has made his name famous all
over the world.
At first young Titian worked with Giorgione, and together they began to fresco the walls
of the Exchange above the Rialto bridge. But by and by Giorgione grew jealous. Titian's
work was praised too highly; it was even thought to be the better of the two. So they
parted company, for Giorgione would work with him no more.