Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) was, after Velázquez, the greatest painter of the Golden Age in Spain. He may also be considered the most representative artist of the period, since he did not, like Velázquez, work at the court in Madrid, but for ecclesiastical—primarily monastic—patrons in southern Spain.
Born in the small farming town of Fuente de Cantos in Extremadura, Zurbarán established a workshop in Llerena, some sixty miles to the north. Several pictures he painted for Sevillian monasteries brought him early recognition and an unprecedented invitation from the city government to live in Seville, which "would be honored ... and favor him ... since the art of painting is one of the major embellishments of the state."
Zurbarán's clientele, though restricted, was nevertheless representative of seventeenth-century Spain; his approach to spiritual subjects reflects the authority of tradition, the demands of doctrine, and the requirements of patrons and of a public for whom the story, not the style, was the essence of a work of art. The synthesis of tradition and innovation in Zurbarán's art, of forms that are at once timeless and tangible, perfectly expresses the spirit of Counter-Reformation theology and of contemporary Spanish society, with its faith in both mystical and earthly reality. (Read more.)Share