Diego Velazquez – A Painter’s Painter, a Realist Star

The Spanish painter, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, or Diego Velázquez, is reputed for his unique and talented skills of integrating color, space, light, and mass in equal value. Born in Seville, Spain on June 06, 1599, Diego Velazquez is noted for his remarkably personal and ingenious style.

Well trained in languages and philosophy, Diego learnt art for a year, under the capable guidance of the painter Francisco de Herrera. At the young age of 12, Velazquez served as an apprentice for five years to Francisco Pacheco, an artist at Seville. It was in this period that the very youthful painter started painting the most banal of things such as earthenware pots, fruits, and fish in the marketplace. One of his famous quotes goes as, “I would rather be the first painter of common things than second in higher art.”

In 1618, Diego married Juana Pacheco, the daughter of Francisco Pacheco. They had two daughters from the marriage. By 1920, the painter had acquired fame in Seville. Later, Velázquez had an urge to travel around the world and therefore went to Madrid in 1622. In December 1622, Count-Duke of Olivares, who was a minister of King Philip IV, summoned Diego. On August 16, 1623, Velazquez painted the King’s portrait. King Philip IV greatly appreciated Velazquez’s work done and proclaimed that no other painter could paint his portrait except for Velázquez. Since then, the painter served as the royal artist to the King.

In 1629, Velázquez went to learn more about Italian Art. It was during this time that there were some notable changes in his style of painting. During his voyage to Italy, Ambrogio Spinola, the conqueror of the Dutch city of Breda, accompanied Diego. This momentous siege of Breda was depicted in his painting, “La rendición de Breda (1634-1635, English: The Surrender of Breda).” Diego’s paintings mostly included the portraits, and the scenes of historical and cultural importance. The master of Impressionism and Realism, Diego Velázquez inspired many nineteenth century painters of very high repute. Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Francis Bacon, have all repainted Velazquez’s famous works. Owing to this recreation of his paintings, the artist is often credited as the “Painter’s Painter.”

It is predicted that 20 years later, Velázquez again visited Italy. This can be accepted as a fact because the royal archives specify the different dates of his paintings, even though most of his paintings resemble a common personal style. It was during this time that he bought paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese. He then sent them for the King’s collection.

While his stay in Spain, Diego painted the portraits of the King’s other family members also. One of the most notable paintings of Velázquez is, “Las Meninas (1656, English: The Maids of Honor),” which is also known to be his magnum opus. Here the philosophers of art seem divided on who the actual subject of the painting is. Is it Margarita the eldest infant daughter of the King or the painter Velázquez himself?

One of the most influential painters of the European era, Diego Velazquez died on August 16, 1660. Velázquez was a great Realist and it is often quoted that no one could capture genuine features and fix them as uniquely on the canvas as he did. A noted art philosopher has said, “His men and women seem to breathe.”