Since language is not isolated from the rest of the culture, and culture includes all forms of art, today we will be introducing you to some of the most important Spanish painters ever.
Spain has been the birthplace of quite several artists: movie makers, writers, sculptors, and yes, painters, hail from the Spanish peninsula.
Regardless of how short this list turns out to be, the painters we will list in this article are quite groundbreaking and worldwide renowned:
They dared to change our views on space, our conception of dreams, and the subconscious, playing with a very Spanish expression of irony.
Here you are:
DIEGO DA SILVA Y VELÁZQUEZ (1599-1660)
Born in Seville, Velázquez is among the giants of Spanish painting, a leading figure of the Baroque movement, and the main artist in the court of King Phillip IV of Spain and Portugal.
His works mark what is well-known as the Spanish Golden Age in painting.
For some scholars, Velázquez lineage included conversos (Jewish who became Christians) and moors, but his paternal family certainly hails from Portugal.
Also, his formative years as a painter took place between Madrid and Italy. His magna opus, and probably one of the most famous Spanish paintings, is Las meninas (it can be translated as “The Maids of Honor”).
Las meninas is considered one of the most influential paintings ever, an outstanding example of baroque art expression.
Also, its magic comes from the representation of mirrored images in a portrait where no one knows whether the focus is the painter himself (as he is self-portraited there), the royal daughter, or anyone else there represented.
FRANCISCO DE GOYA Y LUCIENTES (1746-1828)
Another of our famous Spanish artists is Goya, a romantic often considered the last of the Old Masters and the first of the modern ones.
Affected by an illness that left him deaf, this is reflected may have led to a progressively disenchanted view of reality expressed through the satire oozing from his works.
For example, the 14 Black Paintings, worked on and completed between 1819 and 1823, including the very famous Saturn devouring his son, as well as La Leocadia (or The seductress, usually identified as Leocadia Weiss, Goya’s companion and alleged lover), Witches’ Sabbath, and so on.
Goya devoted himself to painting but also made drawings and engravings. Many of Goya’s works draw heavily from Velázquez.
Subsequently, Goya lived and worked in Italy, and Madrid, and the court commissioned many members of the Spanish nobility.
Of note are La maja vestida and La maja desnuda. Maja is Spanish for “young lady”.
So, it could be translated as Dressed young lady and Naked young lady, but in English, it has been preferred to keep the word, Maja.
La maja desnuda is a nude painting really impactful for the time, to the extent of being regarded by Licht (1979) as “the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art”.
The identity of the maja is still disputed; a number of researchers lean towards the Duchess of Alba as the model.
JOAQUÍN SOROLLA (1863-1923)
One of the most important Spanish painters, Sorolla was an influential Impressionist and Luminist painter from Valencia and was orphaned at a young age along with his sister.
Their parents seem to have died of cholera, so he and his sister were cared for and raised by their maternal aunt and uncle.
His formative years as a painter included sojourns in Madrid, Rome, and Paris. In the latter, he had his first contact with modern painting. Sorolla’s prestige is rooted in his portraits of landscapes where the sun and sunlit water are essential.
SOME OF HIS PAINTINGS WERE:
Examples of this are The death of Pedro Velarde y Santillán during the defence of the Monteleon Artillery Barracks, from 1884, Beach at Valencia (1908), The horse’s bath (1909), etc.
Also, Another Marguerite (1892) was awarded a gold medal at Madrid’s 1892 National Exhibition and then first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition.
We need to add Sad Inheritance (1899), in which the drama of children affected with polio is portrayed, as well as a portrait of American President William Howard Taft from 1909.
PABLO RUIZ PICASSO (1881-1973)
Continuing with our list of Spanish painters you need to learn about, one of the best-known ever is Pablo Picasso.
PICASSO ARTISTIC WORKS
His works are divided into several periods:
- The Blue Period,
- the Rose Period,
- the African-Influenced Period,
- the Analytic Cubism;
- and Synthetic Cubism, which is also referred to as the Crystal Period.
There, we are speaking of nearly twenty years of intense experimentation.
Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga. The last name Picasso is of Ligurian origin, as Pablo’s maternal great-grandfather, Tommaso Picasso, moved to Spain around 1807.
Don José Ruiz y Blasco, Pablo Picasso’s father, was himself a painter and a professor at the School of Fine Arts.
Also, he gave Picasso his first formal instruction in figure drawing and oil painting when the child was seven, even though he had shown skill and passion from an earlier age.
Some of Picasso’s works reflect his political views: one of his most famous paintings is Guernica (1937), a large, moving anti-war painting that portrays the suffering and destruction resulting from the bombing of the Basque town Guernica (Basque name: Gernika) by the Nazis and the Italian Fascists because the Spanish Nationalists requested so.
Picasso was able to earn a considerable fortune, which upon his death, and as it has been divided by his descendants, has allowed for the creation of artistic and humanitarian institutions.
SALVADOR DALÍ (1901-1989)
The name Dali is synonymous with Surrealism and eccentricity, as his personality, Velázquez-based moustache, and antics could be considered part of a major, live artwork.
Dali was born in Figueres, Catalonia, and his artistic endeavors were encouraged by his mother.
His formative years developed in Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris, where he would join the Surrealist movement.
Dali’s image includes his muse, lover, and wife Gala (born Elena Ivanonva Diakonovna in Russia and ten years his senior).
He met her in 1929 in Spain, and Babou, his pet ocelot (yes, it could not be a simple cat).
Being from the same country and having lived somewhat during the same period, there could be the temptation to think Dalí and Picasso were great friends or at least professed mutual allegiance.
Regardless of the fact they met and coexisted in Paris and at first much respected each other, their worldviews would grow apart even in terms of political leanings.
Thereby the famous statement by Dali:
Picasso es pintor, yo también; Picasso es español, yo también; Picasso es comunista, yo tampoco.
(Picasso is a painter, so am I; Picasso is a Spaniard, so am I; Picasso is a communist, neither am I).
Dali also had a very personal approach to the Catholic faith, to which he adhered from a certain point in his life.
He remarried Gala in a Catholic ceremony in 1958, after they had married in a civil ceremony in 1934).
In 1926, he had achieved such an evident mastery as a painter that he left the Royal Academy -not long before his final exams.
Some of his best-known works -which were prolific, to say the least- are The Persistence of Memory (1931), Christ of Saint John the Cross (1951), and Galatea of the Spheres (1952).
It is difficult to trim a selection of painters to only five, but we do hope a Spanish painters list like this is helpful enough as a starting point for the universe of artists Spain has produced.
Again, remember that artistic expression has to do with language, and learning a foreign language implies an immersion in the language´s culture.
Have a great visit to the museum.