Spanish master of religious subjects: biography and paintings
Francisco de Zurbaran (baptised 7 November 1598-died 27 August 1664) was a famous Baroque painter, representative of the Golden Age of Spanish painting. The work of Francisco de Surbaran belongs to the Seville school, but differs in its own recognizable manner. Among the paintings of this author, religious scenes depicting saints, martyrs and monks predominate. The biography of the master confirms that following the vocation and duty was more important for him than royal honors. One critic wrote that no one could so convincingly portray the human faith on the canvas.
Biography of Francisco de Surbaran
Francisco de Surbaran was born in a small Spanish village near the border with Portugal. This probably happened a day or two before November 7, 1598, when he was baptized. Little is known about the artist’s life, especially at an early age. His mother came from a noble family, and his father, presumably, sold expensive fabrics. In January 1614, he took his son to Seville and apprenticed him to a friend — a little-known artist who painted church statues.
Francisco de Surbaran studied in the workshop of the first teacher for a short time. He gained a deeper knowledge at the Academy, where he studied at the same time as Diego Velazquez (Diego Velazquez). After becoming famous masters, they continued to be friends throughout their lives. After completing a three-year academic course, Surbaran surprised everyone by deciding to return to the province. However, in the future, all the major orders he received from Seville, so he often went there and by the 1630s firmly settled in this largest Spanish cultural center.
By 1626, the artist was already well-known enough to receive the largest order for 21 paintings from the Dominican Order. One of these works was the famous “Christ on the Cross”. New orders came in one by one, from the Mercedarians, the Jesuits, and the Franciscans. Gradually, the fame of the painter reached King Philip IV. He invited Francisco de Surbaran to Madrid and granted him the title of court painter, but could not keep him in the capital for long. In Madrid, the master of religious scenes temporarily moved away from the usual theme.
In the 1630s, the artist experienced the peak of his popularity. He gained international fame, as among his customers were many churches and monasteries from the South American colonies of Spain. But already in the 1640s, the public’s tastes began to change. Customers preferred soft and sentimental paintings, like those of Esteban Murillo. Surbaran’s style now seemed too harsh and ascetic. Despite the support of Velasquez, the work became less and less, and the once so popular painter died in poverty. This happened on August 27, 1664.
Surbaran was married three times, and many children were born in these marriages — at least nine are known. Unfortunately, few of them survived their father. Son Huang lived to adulthood and also became an artist, but died young. Surbaran’s will mentions two more daughters.
When the painter died, his work was forgotten for almost two hundred years. Only in the XIX century, the general public again saw his work at a large-scale exhibition of Spanish painting in the Louvre. The works of Francisco de Surbaran made a proper impression on Eugene Delacroix (Eugene Delacroix), Gustave Courbet (Gustave Courbet) and Edouard Manet (Edouard Manet). In the XX century, he was highly appreciated by the Cubists, who found in the work of the classic compliance with their own principles: the lack of perspective, strict geometry and order.
The most famous paintings of Francisco de Surbaran
The works of this author are characterized by a simple composition, nobility and natural poses of the characters, a sharp contrast of light and shadow. For the latter feature, the painter was called the Spanish Caravaggio.
“Hercules fights the Lernaean Hydra” (1634). The fact that the series dedicated to the ancient Greek hero was written by Surbaran became known only in 1945. The image looks quite simple — probably this is done intentionally so that the small paintings are clearly distinguishable from afar. “The Boyhood of Our Lady” (circa 1658). The young Maria, distracted from needlework for the sake of prayer, is painted, presumably, with the artist’s youngest daughter Manuela, who died early. Now this work is on display in the Hermitage.