Happy Birthday Velázquez!

Diego Velazquez self-portrait

Today is the birthday of  Baroque Spanish Court Painter Diego Velázquez(1599 -1660).  Velázquez was a painter to Philip IV, painting all the Royal family as well as portraits of  notables and historical scenes of significance.  Many impressionist painters and realist artists who were to come after him, were very much influenced by this artist.  He was much admired by Salvador Dali, Picasso and Francis Bacon.  Eduard Manet called him ‘The Painters painter’.  He studied under Francisco De Herrera and was apprenticed to Francisco Pancheco, whose daughter he married.

Pope Innocent X

Velázquez used very long brushes, his style employed  long brushstrokes and  harmonious  colours.  He is renown for the technique where details in the painting come into focus only when the viewer is a certain distance.   The long brushes helped the artist appreciate the  effects more readily.  He was a master of shadow and light.

Bacon's Pope

The artist studied  art in Italy in 1629 enjoying and appreciating  its antiquity.  He was especially influenced by Titian.  Besides his portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650) which is a in bolder style,  perhaps his most intriguing painting is Les Meninas which centres around the Kings daughter 5-year-old Infanta Margarita and her servants.

Les Meninas

Painted in 1656, this painting is about painting.  the artist has featured himself in the picture with his long brushes.  The back of a  canvas is shown, we can only guess at the work in progress.  The ceiling space is unusually large, creating an illusion of space and the light at the sides of the painting creates the depth.

The pretty and delicate Infanta is surrounded by her less glamorous servants.  Velázquez was fascinated by clowns and dwarves which were all part of the Royal entourage.  There are lots of little details in the painting which highlight the artist’s artistry and ingenuity – including the artist himself presenting himself as a courtier surveying the scene, perfectly at home and on good terms with the Royal family.

In his later years he painted the Rokeby Venus, the only surviving female nude by this artist.  In his lifetime he only painted about 110 – 120 known canvases but most of them became famous.  Velázquez’s painting life though is quite interesting and there are some good sites to learn about him here and here

Images: Bacon pope here, Velazuez Pope here, Les Mininas here self portrait here

8 Responses to “Happy Birthday Velázquez!”

  1. artistatexit0 Says:

    A devine painter…Las Meninas is one of the greatest achievements on canvas. Because most of his works are in Spain and Vienna…the world isn’t as familar with Velasquez as it should be.

    • I think you’re right Al – and when you consider the influence he has had on other artists it does seem a shame. Frans Hals was another revelation.

  2. what a fantastic artist, a master

  3. You just had to get that Bacon’s Pope in there! His images always look so tortured. May I insert, here, that I have to chuckle when I view some of them? He makes the agony we humans sometimes feel get released. I think I would feel like this if I had to face some of the things that the Pope has had to.
    I have always liked Les Menines for the number of figures relating to one another and the somber warmth of the room. Thank-you for another great post.

  4. I am quite unrepentant about the Pope Leslie – you cannot beat a bit of tortured angst for drama :):) Some of those canvases are quite savage though – you can feel violence through them (even slash marks in some!) That Velazquez – superb artist no wonder he was so admired by other artists. Glad you enjoyed that post!

  5. hi lynda,

    great post about velasquez. he is one of the few who can capture the realism out of life. it’s very hard to make this medium perfect. but he has this undeniably strong gift of painting realistic paintings. thanks for posting this.

    congratulations to you.

  6. Glad you like him Marvin – I feel he may be in for a resurgence soon!

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