Top 3 Spanish Old Masters
El Greco was born Domenikos Theotokopoulos on the island of Crete, which was at the time a Venetian possession. Around age 20, somewhere between 1560 and 1565, El Greco went to Venice to study and found himself under the tutelage of Titian, the greatest painter of the time. Under Titian, El Greco began mastering the fundamental aspects of Renaissance painting. In 1572, El Greco joined the paintersí academy and established a studio, but success would prove elusive, and he left Rome for Spain in 1576.
Finding a Foothold: Toledo, Spain
In Madrid, El Greco tried to secure royal patronage from King Philip II, but to no avail, so he moved on to Toledo, where he finally began to find the success history would remember and where he would paint his
In Toledo, El Greco met Diego de Castilla, the dean of the Toledo Cathedral, who commissioned El Greco to paint a group of works for the altar of the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo (such as The Trinity and The Assumption of the Virgin, both 1579). Castilla also facilitated the commission of The Disrobing of Christ (1579), and these paintings would become some of El Grecoís most accomplished masterworks.
Regardless of where commissions now came from, El Greco embarked on a wildly successful career in Toledo and produced such landmark works as St. Sebastian (1578), and The Burial of Count Orgaz (1588). The Burial of Count Orgaz, especially, encapsulates El Grecoís art in that it depicts a visionary experience, transcending the known and revealing that which exists in the spiritual imagination. One of El Grecoís most celebrated works, it features a dichotomy of heaven and earth, the burial and the spiritual world waiting above, and it took his artistic vision beyond what he had previously been able to accomplish.
Another notable work from this period is View of Toledo (1597), which is considered the first landscape in Spanish art. It is also is one of the only, if not the only, surviving landscape done by El Greco, who rarely strayed from religious subjects and portraits.
Later Years and Legacy
El Grecoís later works are marked by exaggerated, and often distorted, figures, stretching beyond the realities of the human body (which is what modern viewers generally have found so appealing). Among them are
The Adoration of the Shepherds (1599), and The Opening of the Fifth Seal. Fifth
Seal in particular went on to spark great debate, as it has been suggested that it was an influence on Picassoís Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, often considered the
first cubist painting. El Greco died on April 7, 1614, unappreciated in his time, with the art world waiting 250 years before embracing his status as a master.
Diego RodrÌguez de Silva y Velazquez was born in Seville, Spain, circa June 6, 1599. At the age of 11, he began a six-year apprenticeship with local painter Francisco Pacheco. Velazquez's early works were of the
traditional religious themes favored by his master, but he also became influenced by the naturalism of Italian painter Caravaggio.
Velazquez set up his own studio after completing his apprenticeship in 1617. A year later, he married Pacheco's daughter, Juana. By 1621, the couple had two daughters.
In 1622, Velazquez moved to Madrid, where, thanks to his father-in-law's connections, he earned the chance to paint a portrait of the powerful Count-Duke of Olivares. The count-duke then recommended Velazquez's
services to King Philip IV; upon seeing a completed portrait, the young king of Spain decided that no one else would paint him and appointed Velazquez one of his court painters.
The move to the royal court gave Velazquez access to a vast collection of works and brought him into contact with important artists such as Flemish baroque master Peter Paul Reubens, who spent six months at the court in 1628. Among Velazquez's notable works from that period were The Triumph of Bacchus, in which a group of revelers falls under the powerful spell of the Greek god of wine.
Velazquez traveled to Italy from June 1629 to January 1631, where he was influenced by the region's great artists. After returning to Madrid, he began a series of portraits that featured members of the royal family on horseback. Velazquez also devoted time to painting the dwarves who served in King Philip's court, taking care to depict them as complex, intelligent beings. Along with his painting duties, Velazquez undertook increasing responsibilities within the court, ranging from wardrobe assistant to superintendent of palace works.
Velazquez made a second trip to Italy from 1649 to 1651. During this time, he was given the opportunity to paint Pope Innocent X, producing a work that is considered among the finest portraits ever rendered. Velazquez also produced a portrait of his servant, Juan de Pareja, which is admired for its striking realism, and the Venus Rokeby, his only surviving female nude.
Death and Legacy
Velazquez returned to his portraiture after rejoining the Madrid court, his technique more assured than ever. In 1656, he produced perhaps his most acclaimed work, "Las Meninas." In this snapshot-like painting, two
handmaidens dote on future empress Margarita Theresa while Velazquez peers from behind a large easel, ostensibly studying the king and queen, though his gaze meets the viewer's.
In 1658, Velazquez was made a knight of Santiago. After being tasked with decoration responsibilities for the wedding of Maria Theresa and Louis XIV, Velazquez became ill. He died in Madrid on August 6, 1660.
Velazquez is remembered as one of the great masters of Western art. Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali are among the artists who considered him a strong influence, while French Impressionist …douard Manet described the Spanish great as "the painter of painters."
Sometimes called the father of modern art, Spanish artist Francisco de Goya painted royal portraits as well as more subversive works in late 1700s and early 1800s.
The son of a guilder, Goya spent some of his youth in Saragossa. There he began studying painting around the age of fourteen. He was a student of JosÈ Luz·n MartÌnez. At first, Goya
learned by imitation. He copied the works of great masters, finding inspiration in the works of such artists as Diego RodrÌguez de Silva y Velazquez and Rembrandt van Rijn.
Later, Goya moved to Madrid, where he went to work with brothers Francisco and RamÛn Bayeu y SubÌas in their studio. He sought to further his art education in 1770 or 1771 by traveling to Italy. In Rome, Goya studied the classic works there. He submitted a painting to a competition held by the Academy of Fine Arts at Parma. While the judges liked his work, he failed to win the top prize.
Goya and The Spanish Court
Through the German artist Anton Raphael Mengs, Goya started to create works for Spain's royal family. He first painted tapestry cartoons, which were artworks that served as models for woven tapestries, for a factory in
Madrid. These works featured scenes from everyday life, such as Naked Maja (1797) and Antonia Zarate (1779).
In 1779, Goya won an appointment as a painter to the royal court. He continued to rise in status, receiving admission into the Royal Academy of San Fernando the following year. Goya began to establish a reputation as a portrait artist, winning commissions from many in royal circles. Works, such as "The Duke and Duchess of Osuna and their Children" (1787-1788), illustrate Goya's eye for detail. He skillfully captured the tiniest elements of their faces and clothes.
In 1792, Goya became completely deaf after suffering from an unknown malady. He started to work on non-commissioned paintings during his recovery, including portraits of women from all walks of life. His style changed somewhat as well.
Continuing to thrive professionally, Goya was named the director of the Royal Academy in 1795. He may have been part of the royal establishment, but he did not ignore the plight of the Spanish people in his work. Turning to etchings, Goya created a series of images called "Los Caprichos" in 1799, which has been viewed his commentary on political and social events. The 80 prints explored the corruption, greed, and repression that was rampant in the country.
Even in his official work, Goya is thought to have cast a critical eye on his subjects. He painted the family of King Charles IV around 1800, which remains one of his most famous works. Some critics have commented that this portrait seemed to be more a caricature than a realist portrait.
Goya also used his art record moments of the country's history. In 1808, France, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, invaded Spain. Napoleon installed his brother Joseph as the country's new leader. While he remained a court painter under Napoleon, Goya created a series of etchings depicting the horrors of war. After Spanish royalty regained the throne in 1814, he then painted The Third of May, which showed to the true human costs of war. The work depicted the uprising in Madrid against French forces.
With Ferdinand VII now in power, Goya kept his position in the Spanish court despite having worked for Joseph Bonaparte. Ferdinand reportedly once told Goya that "You deserve to be garroted, but you are a great
artist so we forgive you."
Despite the personal risks, Goya expressed his dissatisfaction with the Ferdinand's rule in a series of etchings called "Los disparates." These works featured a carnival theme and explored folly, lust, old age, suffering and death among other issues. With his grotesque imagery, Goya seemed to illustrate the absurdity of the times.
he political climate subsequently became so tense that Goya willingly went into exile in 1824. Despite his poor health, Goya thought he might be safer outside of Spain. Goya moved to Bordeaux, France, where he spent the remainder of his life. During this time, he continued to paint. Some of his later works included portraits of friends also living in exile. Goya died on April 16, 1828, in Bordeaux, France.