In Titian’s painting of Bacchus and Ariadne, Bacchus, god of wine, emerges with his followers from the landscape. Falling in love with Ariadne, he leaps from his chariot, drawn by two cheetahs. Ariadne had been abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos by Theseus, whose ship is shown in the distance. Initially she is fearful. Eventually Bacchus raises her to heaven and turns her into a constellation, represented by the stars above her head. So the story is told on the website of the UK National Gallery where the painting is now housed. While wonderful to see such a work in a book or on the computer screen, it is a whole other experience to view it in person.
Painter Donald Langosy wrote about such an experience. He was a young poet chasing Ezra Pound around Venice. “But my meeting with Pound was overshadowed, quite unexpectedly, by entering the Frari church one day and finding myself facing Titian’s Assumption. … My encounter with Titian’s painting was an aesthetic epiphany.”
From Titian and other Venetian masters, Langosy would begin to understand how artistic technique was the servant of ideas. He would share their work with his daughter, Zoe. “I learned what it meant when my father pointed to the sky and said, “It’s a Titian blue.”
Viewing Titian’s painting in person certainly influenced Langosy’s early work.
Seeing Titian in later years would become an unexpected opportunity for two artists, father and daughter, to focus on the beauty to be found even during challenging times. In Zoe’s own words:
“Over the years, my father developed multiple sclerosis, and our once-frequent visits to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts or the Gardner Museum became increasingly rare. Shortly before my father lost the ability to walk entirely, he and my mother traveled to London, where I was living at the time. Walking with a cane and with great difficulty, he set out one day with one purpose: to see Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne at the National Gallery. It was a masterwork that he had never before seen in person and, of all the great works of art in London, it was the one he refused to miss. While my mother and I wandered through the nearby exhibits, he sat studying that single painting for nearly an hour.”
“As the years progressed, my father’s MS caused physical discomfort and fatigue that made it increasingly difficult for him to travel even as far as the local art museums we had enjoyed together. Our conversations about art never took place outside the comfort of the studio, living room, or kitchen at my parent’s home in the Boston suburb of Medford. Then, one day, we read in the newspaper about the “Rivals of Renaissance Venice” show at the MFA. That moment created a breakthrough. My father knew this was a show that he could not and would not miss.”
“We chose a time when we knew the museum would be quiet, and, on a hot summer morning, my father, mother, and I traveled into Boston to see the exhibit. Above all, we went to see the Titians. As I pushed my father in his wheelchair, we stopped for a long time at each painting. Sometimes we would quietly look at the art, while other times we would talk about what we saw. For the first time in many years, I was given the gift of being able to walk through a museum with my father again and share with him one of the things that we both love most: art. Visiting the show was highly enriching for all of us. Since then, my father has found renewed strength to combat the hold that MS had placed on his activities, and he is determined to attempt such outings on a more regular basis.”
Want to learn more?
View four decades of Langosy’s work at http://www.donald.langosy.net/
See what’s current on Langosy’s Facebook page.
His contact: Zoe Langosy at firstname.lastname@example.org.