Titian, Diana and Actaeon (1551–62)

A handful of works throughout the history of art seem at once to sum up and transcend their moment. They embody the highest aesthetic ideals and aspirations of their authors and their own period, yet at the same time they point backwards to the origins of those ideals and aspirations, and forward to what future generations will extrapolate from them. Henri Matisse’s Bathers by a River (1909–17, Art Institute of Chicago) is one of those remarkable objects. In it, we can discover his lifelong exploration of Arcadian themes and the female body, revisit the sources of his inspiration from the Renaissance...


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