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Modern transport robs the traveller of the joy of discovery


Titian's Assumption of the Virgin
Brian Sewell Writer
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There was one particular thing in Venice that I wanted to see, and so indeed did Jill. Again, reverting to Johannes Wilde, that best of all teachers, he had spoken of Titian’s Assunta, which is a great altarpiece, arch-topped, of the assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary, and had said that no one should ever go to Venice without seeing this picture, not only in the morning, but in the late afternoon. Because it’s in the apse of a Gothic church with high Gothic windows, and the light comes in from one side, and then it comes in from the other side. And the light is an entirely different colour in the afternoon.

And I thought that encapsulates a lesson, a great lesson: that you should never make up your mind about any painting, or any building, for that matter, on seeing it once at one time of day, that one should always go back and see how it feels, or get up very early in the morning and see what it’s like in the cold dawn light.

And again, Jill and I swanned off to see it, well, rather more than twice, because it changed. It was an extraordinary picture. It changed from morning to afternoon.

And having picked up that hint, you then apply it elsewhere, and particularly to architecture, it’s hugely important, because the shadows get thrown in a completely contrary direction, and the thing does not look the same.

Born in England, Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was considered to be one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken art critics. He was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art and subsequently became an art critic for the London Evening Standard; he received numerous awards for his work in journalism. Sewell also presented several television documentaries, including an arts travelogue called The Naked Pilgrim in 2003. He talked candidly about the prejudice he endured because of his sexuality.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Assumption of the Virgin, Assunta, Frari Assumption, Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice, Gothic, Jill Spencer Rigden, Jill Spencer Allibone, Tiziano Vecelli, Tiziano Vecellio, Titian, Johannes Wilde

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2013

Date story went live: 04 July 2013