Just a few days before our March lecture, a major exhibit of over fifty works of art by the Venetian artist Jacopo Tintoretto opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, presented on the five hundredth anniversary of the artist’s birth, is the first retrospective of Tintoretto in North America.
Along with Titian and Veronese, Tintoretto is considered one of the “big three” of sixteenth century painters. Whereas the other two may be familiar names, Tintoretto is less familiar for perhaps two unfortunate reasons. He worked on such a large scale, in general, that it’s difficult to move his paintings out of Venice. And past scholarship has concluded that many works thought to be his were likely produced by assistants or imitators, resulting in a downgrade in his reputation. Someone needed to rescue Tintoretto, and fortunately for us, Frederick Ilchman took up the cause.
Currently the Chair of Art of Europe and the Baker Curator of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Dr. Ilchman has long been involved with Tintoretto. Early in his career, he spent five years in Venice. In a church in a quiet area of Venice, he found himself gazing up at forty-eight foot paintings and struck by their sheer power. “This,” he recalls thinking, “is an artist with something to say.”
And so, as a graduate student at Columbia, Dr. Ilchman wrote his dissertation on Tintoretto. He went on to be involved with a major exhibit of Tintoretto at the Prado in 2007, and was lead curator of a 2009 exhibition on Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese.
Now, along with his co-curator of the National Gallery exhibit, Robert Echols, Dr. Ilchman is widely considered the scholar responsible for a new and more accurate understanding of Tintoretto’s entire body of work and chronology.
He is also doing everything he can to save Tintoretto’s home town as chairman of Save Venice, an organization dedicated to conserving the art and architecture of a sinking city.
To a full house on Wednesday, March 27th, Dr. Ilchman proved himself a man “with something to say!”
Many thanks go out to him from our membership and the lucky audience present that day.