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Titian's Imaginative Painting on Display at the Museum of Fine Arts This Weekend

Museum-goers will get to experience the unprecedented work of Titian and other Venetian painters when Masterworks of the Venetian Renaissance opens at the Museum of Fine Arts. Best characterized by its attention placed on color and loose brushwork, Venetian painting emerged as a freer form than its Italian painting counterpart. Where Italian painting put emphasis on systematic drawing, more or less coloring in the lines, Venetian painting abandoned restrictions and covered templates with unfettered brush strokes.

Titian is considered the unrivaled master of this style. 

The exhibit also features 12 paintings and 13 drawings from such legendary artists as Tintoretto, Bassano, Veronese, and Lotto. But Titian's two paintings Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto steal are the main attraction. The other 23 pieces provide them a context in the renaissance period. Both Diana paintings come from the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses which relates the loves of the gods and the tragic consequences of mortals who end up messing with the gods.

"The paintings took Titian three years to complete and were largely of his own imagination," says Edgar Bowron, curator of European Art at MFAH. They are considered among Titian's greatest pieces.

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The Diana paintings were lent to the MFAH by the National Gallery of Scotland (a very gracious gesture). Along with the National Gallery in London, The National Gallery of Scotland purchased Diana and Actaeon from the Duke of Southerland for the small price of 80 million dollars. It's "a fraction of what the price is actually worth," says Bowron. 

Americans have been largely deprived of Titian's great work. Most of his paintings find their homes in places like Paris and Madrid. Since it's the Diana paintings' first time to ever travel to the U.S., we'll finally get to see what our European friends have kept from us for so long. "This is why people should come to see this exhibition because it's a chance to see these masterpieces, and masterpiece is not used with hyperbole," Bowron says.

May 22 through August 14. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 12:15 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts Houston 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7550 or visit www.mfah.org. $10-$17.

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