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The Canon Establishes Curriculum for Relevant Art

 

Pollock further states, ‘we know these canons – Renaissance, modernist, etc. through what gets hung in galleries…gets put on the curriculum as the standard and necessary topics for study…’64 Nanette Solomon identifies Vasari as the founder of the canon and says, ‘[he] introduced a structure or discursive form that in its incessant repetition, produced and perpetuated the dominance of a particular gender, class and case as purveyors of art and culture.’65

The repetition of certain histories can be seen in the major Titian exhibitions that feature the same paintings and descriptive interpretive labels in which Titian is presented as an artistic genius similar to Vasari’s biographical style. Mark Liddiard questioned the objectivity of museums and asked, ‘are they [visitors] aware they are viewing a selected organisation of the past?’66

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Art galleries therefore contribute to sustaining the ‘canonicity’ of Titian’s status as an artistic genius that is regarded as essential in our formal education.67 The acquisition of canonical artworks by national galleries increases both the status of the gallery and the cultural worth of the artwork.68 Avery-Quash states, ‘the gallery [National Gallery, London] has certainly played up the number of Titians in English private collections over time, which then becomes a card in the Trustees’ hands whenever part of the British patrimony is about to be lost overseas.’69

In 2003, Titian’s Venus Anadyomene (Figure 2) was purchased on behalf of the nation and was featured in two exhibitions. It toured to seven different venues between 2005-11 in the U.K. and abroad. There have also been a steady number of acquisitions and major exhibitions in the last five years that imply Titian in particular has proven a consistently well-received artist in the U.K. and abroad70 Titian and the Golden Age of Painting is currently on a three-city tour in America, proving Titian is also highly regarded in the U.S. and not solely a Eurocentric phenomenon.

This 2011 exhibition celebrates the acquisition of Titian’s Diana and Actaeon (Figure 5) and promotes the current fundraising bid to purchase Diana and Callisto (Figure 7). In conjunction with the National Gallery and the London Olympic Committee, the 2012 Titian project has also been implemented to accentuate and promote the touring exhibition and campaign to acquire Diana and Callisto.

Both the Titian campaign and the 2003 acquisition of Venus Anadyomene required public financial support in order to acquire the artworks. Therefore, the controversial erotic nature of the art works was not discussed in the interpretative materials. From what is apparent, more socially respectable methods have been used

68 Pollock, 1999. 3.
69 Alontaga, 2011. Interview with Susanna Avery-Quash. Appendix 1.
70 There have been major Titian exhibitions during the last 5 years such as Titian and the Golden Age of Painting, a National Gallery of Scotland exhibition currently on tour in America; Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting (catalogue of exhibition at National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) 2006; Botticelli to Titian: Two Centuries of Italian Masterpieces (exhibition catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts), Budapest, 2009; Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese exhibition (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Musée du Louvre, Paris) 2009; Venus Rising mounted by the National Gallery of Scotland in 2005; Bahrain National Museum, Italian Festival and Conference with an exhibition planned for 2011, ‘Il ritratto nella pittura lombardo veneta del rinascimento.’ Collezione Giuseppe Alessandra. 2nd February – 17th February 2011. The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Venus of Urbino: Myth and Image of the Goddess from Antiquity to the Renaissance. 4th March – 18th May 2008. This list does not include thematic Italian Renaissance exhibitions containing Titian’s other paintings.

to market Titian’s artworks. If Titian’s representations of the female nude were interpreted as titillating and erotic images, would the public and art organisations donate the necessary funding to purchase the paintings? One approach is to suggest that Titian’s paintings are part of historical trajectory of western art that is based on the canon. This method is problematic because the meaning is no longer the main focus. Concentrating on the artistic worth of the female nude and aesthetic merit of Titian are bi-products of galleries using the western canon as their only collecting guide; which in a way is discriminatory towards women in art and does not address the sociological and cultural meaning behind the artworks.

As part of the 2012 Titian project, artists, performers, and poets have been commissioned to create a work inspired by three of Titian’s paintings: Diana and Actaeon, Diana and Callisto and Venus Anadyomene.71 The 2012 Titian project is enabling contemporary artists to reiterate through their work, the importance of Titian’s artistic legacy in the U.K. The project aims to ‘…raise public awareness of its beauty and the present need to save it for the nation…also, the year of the Olympics in London is being used to help promote the Titian for sale and of its pair [the pendant, Diana and Callisto]–which has been recently acquired– by showing the inspiration to all the arts it has to offer.’

The National Gallery, London has been a powerful tool in promoting the canon (as Pollock stated in 1999) by implementing certain activities such as the Titian 2012 project, the Titian Campaign and the major Titian exhibitions that have taken place in the last ten years. By claiming Titian’s works have a ‘universal purpose’ and by emphasising the ‘inspirational purpose to all the arts,’ certain histories and interpretations have been simply left out.

62 Alontaga, 2011. Interview of Susanna Avery-Quash. Appendix I.

63 Pollock, 1999. 3.
64 Pollock, 1999. 4.
65 Solomon, 1998. 344.

66 Liddiard, 2004. 21.

67 Pollock, 1999. 3.

68 Pollock, 1999. 3.
69 Alontaga, 2011. Interview with Susanna Avery-Quash. Appendix 1.
70 There have been major Titian exhibitions during the last 5 years such as Titian and the Golden Age of Painting, a National Gallery of Scotland exhibition currently on tour in America; Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting (catalogue of exhibition at National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) 2006; Botticelli to Titian: Two Centuries of Italian Masterpieces (exhibition catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts), Budapest, 2009; Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese exhibition (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Musée du Louvre, Paris) 2009; Venus Rising mounted by the National Gallery of Scotland in 2005; Bahrain National Museum, Italian Festival and Conference with an exhibition planned for 2011, ‘Il ritratto nella pittura lombardo veneta del rinascimento.’ Collezione Giuseppe Alessandra. 2nd February – 17th February 2011. The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Venus of Urbino: Myth and Image of the Goddess from Antiquity to the Renaissance. 4th March – 18th May 2008. This list does not include thematic Italian Renaissance exhibitions containing Titian’s other paintings.

71 11 April 2011. ‘Turner Prize artists join 2012 Titian project.’
72 Alontaga, 2011. Interview with Susanna Avery-Quash. Appendix I.

 

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