When I saw London’s National Gallery posters claiming Veronese as “Master of the Renaissance” I had to see the exhibition myself. I love the period because of the digging up of ancient art examples and following them, and the liberation of the minds leading to revolutionary inventions: linear perspective or project of submarine whatever. That kept busy most of the artists, but what had Veronese been doing instead? He was earning.
As I thought, the space filled with his paintings felt much more like a tutorial on themes, techniques and colours, not a collection of genius work. The term “genius” came up among the quotes decorating the space. The latest opinion used there was from the 1850s. I wonder if modern art critics simply don’t take up Veronese as a subject anymore, can’t be bothered with past centuries at all or are too polite: prefer to remain silent rather than say something bad.
“Commercial” as a description of 16th century art may sound weird, but that’s the most suitable word for that content. Pretty paintings with vivid colors, wide selection of saints and nicely fitted faces of founders and their families. Plus some mythological themes presented in a way to satisfy middle class tastes (unclothed boobs). No one can blame Veronese for not dying of starvation, but when it comes to art, regardless of the era: can something widely appreciated by current audience stay fresh forever or does it have an expiry date?
History gives us endless examples of underrated work, priceless after the collective consciousness grew up a little. Like Rembrandt or Van Gogh, simply too complicated for their times. The difference between artists popular inside their époque and those considered geniuses long after death is their approach to creative process. The first kind provides pieces the market needs, the second one keeps materialising their visions, experimenting. Using their talent and heart as guides.
Veronese was a correct, suitable, rule-obeying painter, but not a master. Especially comparing with his Venetian neighbors Giorgione and Titian makes him look like a kid with paints or a bricklayer next to a sculptor. The impact of their work on art history is huge and I can easily assume that this belief will stay alive for a long time. Taking a look at 20th century art scene it seems like pieces went out of date, just after the last person got shocked by them.
In our post-post-modernism, new ideas are rare, the number of starving artists high and the number of appetites reflecting ones even higher. I wonder if anything revolutionary can even happen to the art world. And if yes, did the digital age make it possible to feed that brilliant people as soon as possible or do we still need time to form an accurate opinion about them?