Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Francisco de Zurbaran

birth of the Virgin (geburt der Jungfrau)
oil on canvas
141 × 109 cm
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA, USA

Francisco de Zurbaran (c.1598-1664) was a Spanish Baroque painter, probably born in Fuente de Cantos, Spain, who mastered a naturalistic style. As he mainly worked for monastic orders, the majority of his work consisted of religious imagery. Many of his theologically inspired paintings are simple, yet emotionally compelling, works that showcase his naturalistic style, as well as his skilled use of light and shadow.

At the time, religious orders were a significant source of work for artists, and he pursued such commissions in Seville. In 1627 he painted the great altarpiece of St. Thomas Aquinas, now in the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville; it was executed for the church of the college of that saint there.

Later, when Bartolome Esteban Murillo's work became popular in Seville, he found himself displaced as the city's foremost painter, even though he tried unsuccessfully to imitate Murillo's style. With his domestic market in decline, he turned to the New World, exporting a number of canvases. However, fleet seizures kept him from receiving some payments, which exacerbated his financial difficulties. In the 1650s, he once again focused on domestic commissions, though he no longer commanded the high fees he once had. He died at age 65 in Madrid. His artistic reputation may have varied during his lifetime, but today his best pieces mark him as a leading painter from the Spanish Baroque period.