Diego (Rodriguez de Silva y)  Velazquez 

Birth Year : 1599 
Death Year : 1660 
Country : Spain 

Diego Velázquez, although born in Seville, was of Portuguese descent. He may have studied with Herrara, the elder, but it is certain that he spent six years in Seville in the studio of a painter named Pacheco whose daughter he married in 1618. Until 1623, when he went to Madrid and became painter to the king, his work was Baroque in style, with heavy pigment and sharp contrasts that suited the tavern scenes and still lifes he painted. As court painter, however, he was principally a portraitist; and his style changed entirely, becoming lighter, clearer, shallower in composition. After a trip to Italy in 1629, Velázquez, who had copied Renaissance paintings, abandoned Classicism entirely and began to use silvery tones and a wider range of color, painting in a manner that was not to be equaled in atmosphere, dramatic composition, use of light, and optical effects until the nineteenth-century Impressionists. The interrelation of light, air, and color gives poetry to his portraits which are otherwise quite impersonal in their presentation of the subjects, who seem alive upon the canvas entirely because of the artist's skill and accurate eye. Velázquez went to Italy again from 1649 to 1651 to collect the works of the old masters for the king. During this time he did a magnificent portrait of Pope Innocent X. Upon his return to Madrid, Velázquez was made a Knight of the Order of Santiago and appointed Grand Marshall of the Palace. The artist had to devote much of his time to his royal duties and to catering to the royal whims; overburdened by his courtly duties, he died of a fever in 1660. A master of the art of painting, Velázquez handled composition, color, light and space to perfection and was masterful at painting historical scenes, still lifes, interiors, and portraits of noblemen or peasants. His influence extended to such artists as Goya, Courbet, Manet, Eakins, and the Impressionists, and is still being felt today.


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