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Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban

Sevilla, 1617 - Sevilla, 1682

Murillo was apparently a calm and sweet natured man, a fact which might explain some aspects of his personal artistic expression. Born into a family of many siblings, he was orphaned as a child and taken in by one of his sisters. He must have trained with Juan del Castillo, to judge by the characteristics of his early style. In 1645 he married Beatriz Cabrera, who bore him several children. Throughout his life he enjoyed a pleasureful existence, without ups and downs, receiving a great many commissions that enabled him to live comfortably. In 1656 he began to work for Seville cathedral and in 1658 travelled to Madrid, where he spent some time, possibly two years, acquainting himself with the Royal Collections and the outstanding art of Velazquez's mature period, which undoubtedly influenced him. In 1660 he helped found the Seville Academy, which he chaired, along with Herrera "the Younger". His wife died in 1663, leaving him alone -he remained a widower until his death- with several young children, some of whom later joined religious orders. He continued to climb the ladder of success, executing the decoration for Santa María la Blanca, the Capuchin monastery and the Hospital de la Caridad. Tradition has it that he died as a result of falling from scaffolding when painting the large painting for the altarpiece of the Capuchin monastery in Cádiz in 1682. Murillo enjoyed huge fame in his city of birth, Seville, when he painted there and throughout the 18th century. He reached his apogee in the 19th century following the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and the dispersal of his works around Europe as a result of the French generals' looting and subsequent sale of the extremely rich booty obtained from the Iberian Peninsula. As in only logical, once he had attained such heights of esteem, enthusiasm waned to the point that he became underestimated. This negative aspect has since faded and today not only is he fairly acknowledged but also hailed as one of the great 17th-century artists, and now occupies his well-deserved place among the brilliant painters. Murillo's aesthetic belongs to a new phase in Spanish art and to a widespread sentiment that was European in scope, characteristic of the second half of the 17th century. Indeed, weariness of the tragic grandiloquence of early Baroque art and the birth of a new sensibility inclined towards gentle and kindly values called for a different language of which Murillo was the most distinguished exponent. The artist's world is that of the Counter-Reformation trends of renewal, which in that period aimed to integrate religion into the everyday environment by underlining the values of family life and enhancing the sense of the mystical in an understandable manner. This resulted in a shift away from the hardships of martyrs or anchorites and an abundance of themes relating to the Immaculate Conception with Mary on her throne of clouds -young, beautiful and sweet- the Virgin and Child behaving as mother and son, the Holy Family, Saint Francis, Saint Anthony and many other subjects. All had in common their charm and blandness, which was sometimes excessive but in keeping with the trend that encouraged these concepts. That Murillo was in tune with such principles is proved by the ever-growing success he enjoyed in his own day and after his death, during the centuries that ensued. But he also executed excellent portraits, albeit not many, and marvellous genre scenes, most of which underpin his religious painting, which is but a pretext for them. In other cases the chosen theme is the event itself, popular, isolated from any other context, and here Murillo's charm and spontaneity are expressed in an outstanding, absolutely distinctive manner with a rare originality. The evolution of his technique is very remarkable. Initially rather dry -inherited from his master- it became progressively enriched and denotes the possible mark of Alonso Cano and Zurbarán. His knowledge of Italian and Flemish art gleaned from the works existing in Seville must have been broadened during his aforementioned visit to Madrid, by viewing Philip IV's pictorial treasures and becoming acquainted with the brilliance of Velazquez's masterpieces. Nor is the varying influence of Correggio, Ribera and Van Dyck on his painting inconsiderable. Shifting away from Castillo's smooth surfaces, his brushstrokes became increasingly loose and loaded with paint, finally achieving a marvellous lightness and ease. It was at this point of maturity when his technique came to be described as "vaporous" as, indeed, his forms became blurred and priority was given to light and colour, the latter in warm, exquisitely modulated shades appropriate to the delicacy that the subject matter was intended to express (Luna, J. J.: From Titian to Goya. Great Masters of the Museo del Prado, National Art Museum of China-Shanghai Museum, 2007, p. 391).

Artworks (77)

Penitent Magdalen
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban (Copy)
Retrato de caballero
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban (Discípulo de)
Vieja hilando
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban (Copy)
Paisaje
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban (Discípulo de)
Cabeza de San Juan Bautista
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban (Attributed to)
El Niño Jesús dormido sobre la Cruz
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban
Cabeza de San Pablo
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban (Copy)
San Francisco de Paula
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban
Paisaje con cascada
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban (Attributed to)

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