Blake Gopnik appreciates the work of Tullio Lombardo, a master sculptor during the transition to painting as the epitome of art:
Tullio Lombardo was that sculptor, born in Venice around 1455 and dying there in 1532. The heart of his career landed at just the moment when Venetian painters such as Giorgione and Titian — not to mention central Italians such as Leonardo and Raphael — were nailing down their art form’s triumph.
Today, there’s sure proof they succeeded: Though Tullio is one of the world’s great sculptors, the National Gallery of Art has just launched his first museum solo. “An Antiquity of Imagination: Tullio Lombardo and Venetian High Renaissance Sculpture” is a modest two-room affair, with sculptures by Tullio and colleagues (including a younger brother, Antonio, who was almost as good) plus a few works by painters of their time.
Some of this show’s outsize impact comes from Tullio’s competition with painting. Renaissance painters had made such undeniable advances in realism — in storytelling, the treatment of space, the rendering of light and shade and bodies — that “lifelikeness,” in any and every sense of the term, had become the crucial measure of every artist’s success, in all media. Tullio goes to stunning lengths to make his sculpture, done in lifeless marble, rival painting’s liveliness.
A Great Sculptor in the Shadow of Painters (MailTribune.com)