Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Murillo, Bartolome Esteban

The Madonna and Child
oil on canvas
157 x 107 cm
Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617 - 1682) was a Spanish painter, active for almost all his life in his native Seville.
He was the youngest son in a family of fourteen and his father was a barber and surgeon (his parents died when he was still very young, and he was largely brought up by his aunt and uncle).

His early career is not well documented, but he started working in a naturalistic tenebrism style, showing the influence of Zurbaran. After making his reputation with a series of eleven paintings on the lives of Franciscan saints for the Franciscan monastery in Seville (1645-46), he displaced Zurbaran as the city's leading painter and was unrivalled in this position for the rest of his life. In 1660, he founded an academy of painting at Seville and became its first president.

He was the first Spanish painter to achieve renown throughout Europe. In addition to the enormous popularity of his works in Spain, he was much admired in other countries, particularly England. Although he is best known for his religious works, his lively, realist portraits of flower girls and beggars constitute an extensive and appealing record of the everyday life of his times. Most of his paintings are of religious subjects, appealing strongly to popular piety and illustrating the doctrines of the Counter-Reformation church, above all the Immaculate Conception, which was his favourite theme.

He died at Seville in 1682, evidently from the after-effects of a fall from scaffolding. He had many assistants and followers, and his style continued to influence Sevillian painting into the 19th century. His fame in the 18th century and early 19th century was enormous.