Painters painter Diego Velázquez, is one of my favorite artists, especially from the Baroque period. His work still influences modern painters today.
I first saw one of his originals hanging in the Prado Museum in Madrid. If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris right now, please don’t miss the Velázquez exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris which shows until July 13.
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was probably born a few days before his baptism recorded on June 6, 1599 in Seville, Spain.
His father was a lawyer and his paternal grandparents were Portuguese of Jewish descent who immigrated to Spain from Porto, Portugal.
Diego was brought up to embrace a professional life and so he immersed himself in languages, philosophy and art. In addition to his native language, he spoke French, German, and English.
He showed early inclination for painting and at age 12 began his apprenticeship with Francisco Pacheco in Seville. His student peers were Francisco de Zurbarán and Alonso Cano.
Velázquez influenced many famous and successful painters that followed him. Starting with his immediate successors like Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo and Juan Carreño de Miranda to painters that followed through the years like Édouard Manet, Pablo_Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Francis Bacon, Frank_Stella, and the list goes on.
Go see Velázquez
If you visit or live in Madrid, you don’t want to miss his paintings at the Prado Museum (wear good walking shoes). As a matter of fact, every time you visit Madrid just make it a point to visit the Prado period.
One of Velázquez’s most famous paintings you’ll find in the Prado is Las Meninas. It is really a microcosm of the experience and skill of Diego’s art. Here’s a video that explains some of his style.
I am always amazed how many folks miss opportunities in their own backyard.
For example, the John Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida is an excellent venue to see lots of baroque period art pieces as well as other periods including the Renaissance. There you can see a Velázquez original which is an early painting of the young King of Spain, Philip IV.
You can also see plenty of paintings by other baroque period painters like Peter Paul Rubens. There are plenty of Rubens paintings to view. Ruben’s work influenced Velázquez.
One of many things I like about the Ringling is that it’s free to the public every Monday, so you’ve got no excuse to see some great paintings, sculptures, and the like. I have visited the museum many times (most Mondays of course) to enjoy the art work and the special exhibits that frequent this unique venue.
You see, when John Ringling donated his estate including the art collection to the state of Florida, Ringling stipulated that the art museum would be free to the public one day a week.
So you have no excuse, please go see it when you’re in town. Besides, the walk through the multi-acre grounds with its beautiful rose garden on Sarasota Bay is a treat in itself.
Artist Early Influences
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMoA) writes regarding the influences upon Velázquez:
“At Madrid, his art was profoundly influenced by Venetian paintings in the royal collection and by Peter Paul Rubens, who spent six months at the court on a diplomatic mission during which he painted royal portraits and copied the king’s masterpieces by Titian.”
Velázquez was principally a portrait painter. Again, the MMoA website defines portrait art from this period as:
“A portrait is typically defined as a representation of a specific individual, such as the artist might meet in life. A portrait does not merely record someone’s features, however, but says something about who he or she is, offering a vivid sense of a real person’s presence. The traditions of portraiture in the West extend back to antiquity and particularly to ancient Greece and Rome, where lifelike depictions of distinguished men and women appeared in sculpture and on coins.”
Diego was also influenced by the naturalism of Caravaggio one of most famous Italian painters of the Renaissance period who broke with the traditional portrayal of the idealized subject to directly painting people from real poses.
The painters painter Velázquez is still popular today. If you want to view a complete collection of his works online, you can visit the site “Velázquez the Complete Works.”
The Portrait of a Man lies in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and after some controversy was attributed to Velázquez in 2009. The Portrait of a Gentleman was discovered among of group of paintings placed for sale by a descendant of the 19th century painter Matthew Shepperson in August of 2010.
Perhaps we’ll see another Velázquez pop up in the future. Who knows?
Art treasure discoveries continue to surface.
Two such recent dramatic finds in Germany are examples. One such instance is the art trove discovered in a Berlin cellar of a house that was destroyed in a bombing during the World War II.
While digging a trench to search for medieval artifacts before installing new metro line in Berlin, archeologists discovered 11 sculptures of so called “degenerate art” defined by the Nazis. These sculptures are from German artists like Otto Baum, Otto Freundlich, Karl Knappe, Marg Moll, Emy Roeder, Edwin Scharff, Gustav Heinrich Wolff, and Naum Slutzky.
Apparently these pieces fell from a multiple floor building into a cellar during a WW II bombing and subsequent fire. You can read more about it here.
The most famous recent example is the art work discovered in Munich, Germany in the apartment of the son of an art curator that worked alongside the Nazis during World War II.
The investigation of Cornelius Gurlitt began when Swiss authorities stopped him on a train with 9,000 Euros in cash his possession in 2010. Their investigation lead German revenue authorities to his small cluttered apartment in Munich where they discovered and removed over a thousand art works including German and impressionist artists as well as Picassos in 2012.
The investigation continues to this day. Gurlitt has since died and he apparently didn’t have any heirs. So, how the German authorities will process the art works and how this art will find its way to the public is still uncertain. You can read this incredible unfolding story that will probably be turned into a film here, here, and here.
Here’s a more detailed video version of the life and work of Diego Velázquez (48+minutes).