Happy Birthday Velázquez!
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.
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.
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.
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