Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The "painter of painters."

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (baptised June 6, 1599 – August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. 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).

The painting shows a large room in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid during the reign of King Philip IV of Spain, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured, according to some commentators, in a particular moment as if in a snapshot.

 Some look out of the canvas towards the viewer, while others interact among themselves. The young Infanta Margaret Theresa is surrounded by her entourage of maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas.

Las Meninas
Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a viewer of the painting would stand. In the background there is a mirror that reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. They appear to be placed outside the picture space in a position similar to that of the viewer, although some scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the painting Velázquez is shown working on.

Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. . More recently, it has been described as "Velázquez's supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve, and perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting"

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. . 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.

The Surrender of Breda
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.

 He died on August 6, 1660. He was buried in the church of San Juan Bautista, and within eight days his wife Juana was buried beside him. Unfortunately, this church was destroyed by the French in 1811, so his place of interment is now unknown.Spain's celebration of the 400th anniversary of Velazquez's birth included major exhibitions of his work at the Prado Museum, as well as a renewed search for his tomb. In early 2000, The Telegraph announced that the search for Velazquez's body would be abandoned: "A car park is to be built over what is widely believed to be the site of the tomb of Velazquez, one of Spain's greatest artists, after the authorities abandoned attempts to find his body...thought to have been buried in Madrid at the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. For 18 months the authorities have been excavating the site of the church which is buried under a residential area. But now they have bowed to residents' demands for underground parking."














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