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The  enormous talent of this Spanish painter is evident in almost every piece he painted. Revered by painters througout history he set the standard for many who came after. He is among the greats in the fine art world.

Velázquez  June 6, 1599 – August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656).

From the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Velázquez’s artwork was a model for the realist and impressionist painters, in particular Édouard Manet. Since that time, more modern artists, including Spain’s Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, as well as the Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to Velázquez by recreating several of his most famous works.

Born in Seville, Andalusia, Spain, Diego, the first child of Juan Rodríguez de Silva and Jerónima Velázquez, was baptized at the church of St Peter in Seville on Sunday, June 6, 1599. This christening must have followed the baby’s birth by no more than a few weeks, or perhaps only a few days. Velázquez’s paternal grandparents, Diego da Silva and Maria Rodrigues, had moved to Seville from their native Porto, Portugal decades earlier. As for Juan Rodríguez de Silva and his wife, both were born in Seville, and were married, also at the church of St Peter, on December 28, 1597. They came from the lesser nobility and were accorded the privileges generally enjoyed by the gentry.

Velázquez was educated by his parents to fear God and, intended for a learned profession, received good training in languages and philosophy. Influenced by many artists he showed an early gift for art; consequently, he began to study under Francisco de Herrera, a vigorous painter who disregarded the Italian influence of the early Seville school. Velázquez remained with him for one year. It was probably from Herrera that he learned to use brushes with long bristles.

After leaving Herrera’s studio when he was 12 years old, Velázquez began to serve as an apprentice under Francisco Pacheco, an artist and teacher in Seville. Though considered a generally dull, undistinguished painter, Pacheco sometimes expressed a simple, direct realism in contradiction to the style of Raphael that he was taught. Velázquez remained in Pacheco’s school for five years, studying proportion and perspective and witnessing the trends in the literary and artistic circles of Seville.

By the early 1620s, his position and reputation were assured in Seville. On April 23, 1618, Velázquez married Juana Pacheco (June 1, 1602 – August 10, 1660), the daughter of his teacher. She bore him two daughters—his only known family. The elder, Francisca de Silva Velázquez y Pacheco (1619–1658), married painter Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo at the Church of Santiago in Madrid on August 21, 1633; the younger, Ignacia de Silva Velázquez y Pacheco, born in 1621, died in infancy.[1]

Velázquez produced notable works during this time. Known for his compositions of amusing genre scenes (also called bodegónes), such as Old Woman Frying Eggs, his sacred subjects include Adoración de los Reyes (1619, The Adoration of the Magi), and Jesús y los peregrinos de Emaús (1626, Christ and the Pilgrims of Emmaus), both of which begin to express his more pointed and careful realism.

Velázquez also painted several buffoons and dwarfs in Philip’s court, often with respect and sympathetically, as in The Favorite (1644), whose intelligent face and huge folio with ink-bottle and pen by his side show him to be a wiser and better-educated man than many of the gallants of the court. Pablo de Valladolid (1635), a buffoon evidently acting a part, and The Buffoon of Coria(1639) belong to this middle period.

The greatest of the religious paintings by Velázquez also belongs to this middle period, the Christ Crucifed (1632). It is a work of tremendous originality, depicting Christ immediately after death. The Savior’s head hangs on his breast and a mass of dark tangled hair conceals part of the face. The figure stands alone. The picture was lengthened to suit its place in an oratory, but this addition has since been removed. Some believe that the man in this painting is his uncle.

Velázquez’s son-in-law Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo had succeeded him as usher in 1634, and Mazo himself had received a steady promotion in the royal household. Mazo received a pension of 500 ducats in 1640, increased to 700 in 1648, for portraits painted and to be painted, and was appointed inspector of works in the palace in 1647.

Philip now entrusted Velázquez with carrying out a design on which he had long set his heart: the founding of an academy of art in Spain. Rich in pictures, Spain was weak in statuary, and Velázquez was commissioned once again to proceed to Italy to make purchases.

In 1629, he went to live in Italy for a year and a half. Though his first Italian visit is recognized as a crucial chapter in the development of Velázquez’s style – and in the history of Spanish Royal Patronage, since Philip IV sponsored his trip – we know rather little about the details and specifics: what the painter saw, whom he met, how he was perceived and what innovations he hoped to introduce into his painting. It is canonical to divide the artistic career of Velázquez by his two visits to Italy, with his second grouping of works following the first visit and his third grouping following the second visit. This somewhat arbitrary division may be accepted though it will not always apply, because, as is usual in the case of many painters, his styles at times overlap each other. Velázquez rarely signed his pictures, and the royal archives give the dates of only his most important works. Internal evidence and history pertaining to his portraits supply the rest to a certain extent.

Until the nineteenth century, little was known outside of Spain of Velázquez’s work. His paintings mostly escaped being stolen by the French marshals during the Peninsular War. In 1828 Sir David Wilkie wrote from Madrid that he felt himself in the presence of a new power in art as he looked at the works of Velázquez, and at the same time found a wonderful affinity between this artist and the British school of portrait painters, especially Henry Raeburn. He was struck by the modern impression pervading Velázquez’s work in both landscape and portraiture. Presently, his technique and individuality have earned Velázquez a prominent position in the annals of European art, and he is often considered a father of the Spanish school of art. Although acquainted with all the Italian schools and a friend of the foremost painters of his day, he was strong enough to withstand external influences and work out for himself the development of his own nature and his own principles of art.

Velázquez is often cited as a key influence on the art of Édouard Manet, important when considering that Manet is often cited as the bridge between realism and impressionism. Calling Velázquez the “painter of painters”, Manet admired Velázquez’s use of vivid brushwork in the midst of the baroque academic style of his contemporaries and built upon Velázquez’s motifs in his own art.

Source : Wikipedia

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