French Painting – Spanish Painting

SPAIN has almost no remains of painting that was executed before the fifteenth century.

Characteristics. — From the first the influence of Italian masters is seen, also a trace of Flemish style. The art is original only as it portrays the physical characteristics of the Spanish people, and is impressed by the melancholy, almost savage domination of the superstitions of church and inquisition.

The work of the different centuries is very uniform. The subjects are chiefly religious and portraits. The few historical paintings exhibit a most dismal vein of superstition.

The absence of the nude, which was strictly prohibited by the Spanish Inquisition, is characteristic ; also the absence of the genre and of the portrayal of all actualities until the time of Velasquez.

In method of treatment, Spanish painting after the sixteenth century resembles the Naturalist School of Italy, led by Caravaggio.


By some writers the painters have been classified in three schools. This classification is local rather than by characteristics. The first is the Castilian, or School of Madrid; the second, the School of Valencia; and the third, the Andalusian, or School of Seville.

We will first notice the most important names of the CASTILIAN SCHOOL, OR SCHOOL OF MADRID.

Pedro Berruguette (dates of life unknown) was painter to Philip I. His best works are altar-pieces in the Cathedrals of Toledo and of Avila, and in the Museum of the Prado, Madrid.

Antonio del Rincon (about 1446—1500) painted religious subjects and portraits. The style of his compositions and his methods of treatment give reason for the belief that he studied in Florence, possibly under Andrea del Castagno or Domenico Ghirlandajo.

Very few of his works are in existence. The most important are seventeen pictures representing scenes in the life of the Virgin, in the Church of Robleda de Chavela, near the Escorial.

Alonzo Berruguette (about 1480-1561) was a pupil of Michael Angelo, whom he assisted in his work in Rome. He was painter, sculptor, and architect. After he had completely acquired the Florentine style of work he returned to Spain.

His paintings are good in composition, but somewhat hard and cold in treatment.

Those now to be seen are chiefly altar-pieces, sculptured and painted, in the church of the Benedictines, Valladolid ; the Cathedral, Toledo ; the Church of Ventosa; and the Cathedral of Palencia.

Gaspar Becerra (1520—1570), like Alonzo Berruguette, was painter, sculptor, and architect, and studied with Michael Angelo. Few of his paintings have been preserved; of those the best are :

Frescoes, in the Alcázar, a royal Moorish palace in Seville.

Luis de Morales (about 1510-1586) was called by his countrymen ” The Divine,” because of his perfect execution. It is not known that he studied in Italy, but his works render it probable.

He painted many pictures of the Christ and Madonna, and heads full of sentiment rather than strength. These are small, painted on wood, and show a Flemish influence in the exquisite elaboration of detail and the stiffness of drapery. His coloring is pure and his light and shade admirable.

Examples are in the Museum of the Prado, Madrid ; Museum, Toledo ; Louvre, Paris ; and National Gallery, London.

Alonzo Sanchez Coello (1515-1590) is chiefly noted for his portraits. He was painter to Philip II, who called him his Portuguese Titian, because he had studied the Titians in Madrid and had formerly been in the service of Don Juan of Portugal. He painted many portraits of Philip II and other court dignitaries.

His work, however, is far inferior to that of Titian in color, in drawing, and in handling. It is more like that of the Flemish painter, Antonio Moro, with whom he at first studied.

Examples are in the Museum of the Prado, Madrid ; in the Escorial; and Museum, Brussels.

Juan Fernandez Navarette (1526-1579), called El Mudo (The Dumb), spent many years in Venice, where he became a great admirer and follower of Titian.

His works are marked by fine, rich color, fair drawing of the figure, and a good treatment of drapery.

Examples are in the Museum of the Prado, Madrid, and in the Escorial, where are his best works.

Domenico Theotocopuli (1548 ?-1625) was by birth a Greek, and probably a pupil of Titian. He had a high reputation in his day. It is said that some of his pictures were even mistaken for those of Titian.

He was, however, very eccentric, and many of his works are marked by gross extravagances both in drawing and color. His portrait painting is good.

Examples :

“Parting of Christ’s Raiment before Crucifixion.” Cathedral, Toledo.

” Martyrdom of St. Maurice.” Escorial.

Several works in Museum of the Prado, Madrid.

“St. Jerome.” National Gallery, London.

Diego de Silva Velasquez (1599-1660), the greatest name in the school of Madrid, is also, beyond question, the greatest in Spanish art. His masters were Herrera and Pacheco, both of the Andalusian School (he was born in Seville) ; he also studied in Italy, but the best of all his knowledge was gained directly from nature.

He was a student of mankind, and, like Leonardo da Vinci, used to wander about the city streets seeking models for his brush.

He painted religious pictures, portraits, landscape, and genre. His best pictures, how-ever, are those in which there is the least need of imagination. The real was his province.

He was court painter to Philip IV, and painted many royal portraits, which rank with those by Titian and Vandyke.

His genre pictures rise almost to the level of historical painting.

Characteristics. — As a realist Velasquez has never been surpassed. His portraits live, breathe, and seem ready for action. This effect is increased by his power of representing atmosphere. His backgrounds have the appearance of concavity, and so his figures seem to be surrounded by space.

In composition everything keeps its place singularly well. His technique is very broad, yet no detail is lost that is essential to the portrayal of character.

His handling is a model for artists, so light, so free, so sure is it.

His color is low-keyed but most rich, full, and harmonious. Representative works :

” Crucifixion,” ” Forge of Vulcan,” ” Tapestry Weavers,” ” Maids of Honor,” ” AEsop,” portraits of Philip IV and many others. Museum of the Prado, Madrid.

” Joseph’s Coat” and others. The Escorial.

” Pope Innocent X.” Doria Gallery, Rome.

Portrait of Philip IV. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Portrait of Infanta Marguerite and others. Louvre, Paris. Portraits of Philip IV and of Admiral Paréja, ” Christ at the Column.” National Gallery, London.

” Water Carrier.” Apsley House, London.


Vincente Joánes, commonly called Juan de Juanes (1523-1579), after a period of study in Italy, established a school of painting at Valencia. A true medioeval Spanish painter, his art was inspired wholly by a superstitious religion. It is said that he never painted a picture of Christ or the Virgin without having first, fasting, partaken of the Holy Communion.

The backgrounds of many of his pictures are of gold, his figures are stiff in drawing, his color brilliant, the detail labored, but he possessed a power of expression beyond his contemporaries.

His portraits are especially good.

The most important of his pictures are in the Cathedral and churches of Valencia. Eighteen are in the Museum of the Prado, Madrid.

Francisco Ribalta (1551—1628) was son-in-law to Juanes. The romantic story is told that, having been refused by the father of the young woman he loved, Ribalta studied in Italy.

One day Juanes, seeing some of his work, said to his daughter, ” The artist who did this I would have you wed, instead of the daubster Ribalta.”

The Italian works that chiefly influenced him are those of Raphael and Sebastian del Piombo. He also probably studied for a time under the Carracci in Bologna.

His chief subjects are Christs, Holy Families, and saints. His pictures have a fine general effect ; the figures are noble and well drawn, the faces fine and expressive, and the coloring rich.

Everything shows strong Italian influence.

The most noted of Ribalta’s pupils was Ribera, Lo Spagnoletto (see page 128).

Ribalta’s chief works are in the Museums of Valencia and Madrid.

Juan de Ribalta (1597-1628), son of Francesco, painted pictures similar to those of his father. After him the school of Valencia merged into the Andalusian.


Luis de Vargas (1502–1568), like Juan de Juanes, painted only after Confession and Communion.

He studied in Italy, and brought home to Seville a knowledge and love of Italian art. He painted in both fresco and oil, but his frescoes have mostly perished.

His works are somewhat unequal and show diverse influences. In some the Virgin and Holy Child are reminiscences of Raphael. In softness of treatment he often resembles Correggio, while the accuracy of some of his details rivals that of the Flemish masters.

Chief works are in Cathedral, Seville.

Pablo de Cespedes (1538-1608), of Cordova, is a noted name of this school. He studied in Italy, where he was especially influenced by the works of Correggio, and brought new brilliancy of color to the school of Seville.

He was particularly strong in invention. His figures are marked by a careful rendering of anatomy and much skill in foreshortening. He is also noted as sculptor and architect, and especially as a writer of both prose and poetry.

Most of his finest works have perished.

A “Last Supper” is in the Cathedral of Cordova, and two or three pictures in the Contaduna Mayor, Seville.

Juan de las Roelas (1558 ?–1625) was born in Seville, and through study in Venice became imbued with the spirit of Italian art. His work resembles somewhat that of Tinto-retto, and also that of the Carracci in general style and execution. His coloring is Venetian, his composition good, and he sometimes displayed a real greatness of form and majesty of character in choosing his subjects.

His finest works are in the Museum and Cathedral of Seville. Another important picture is the Translation of St. Isidorus,” in Church San Isidoro, Seville.

Francisco Pacheco (1571–1654) is more noted for his writings (the chief of which is ” Art of Painting “) than for his pictures.

He was an agent of the Spanish Inquisition, one of his chief missions being to see that no pictures representing the nude should be sold.

His work is marked by harsh color and labored execution. He is best in portraiture.

Examples may be seen in the Museum, Madrid.

Alonzo Cano (1601–1667) was both painter and sculptor, and has been called the Spanish Michael Angelo, though he never studied in Italy. He was a man of strong contradictions. He is said to have possessed most violent passions ; was a duellist, and the reputed murderer of his wife, yet his subjects are all sacred, and his designs are noble and pure, and possess a tender sentiment. He loved sculpture best, and line and modelling in his pictures are sculpturesque. He borrowed much from others, so that his work may be called eclectic.

His best works are in the Cathedral, Granada; Museum and Cathedral, Madrid.

Examples may also be seen in Museum, Berlin; Gallery, Dresden; and Old Pinacothek, Munich.

Francisco de Herrera (the Elder) (1576–1656) was a most bold and vigorous painter, and seems to have prepared the way for Zurburan, and for Velasquez, who was one of his pupils. He was a violent man, and it is said that his brutal treatment drove his pupils from his studio as well as his children from his home. His style of painting grew out of his character.

His composition is most powerful, his drawing broad and true, his handling bold and dashing. He painted many frescoes which have perished.

Examples are in Museum and Cathedral, Seville.

Francisco de Zurburan (1598-1662) stands second only to Velasquez and Murillo, and is perhaps more generally known than any other Spanish artist except these, since many of his paintings are outside of Spain.

All his characteristics are intensely Spanish ; his color is rich, his vigor impassioned, and his drapery rather stiff and conventional. His favorite subjects were fanatic monks, whom he represented with a fine satire.

Representative works are in Cathedral and Museum, Seville ; Museum, Madrid ; Dresden Gallery ; Louvre, Paris ; and National Gallery, London.

Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1618-1682), born at Seville, was a pupil of Velasquez, and is the greatest name in the Andalusian School. There is a remarkable difference in the work of these two great Spanish artists.

Velasquez showed the greater originality, and is by far the stronger in all technical excellencies that appeal especially to the artist. Murillo possessed more sentiment and a greater love for beauty and grace, and appeals more strongly to the hearts of the people. His earliest works show the same naturalistic tendency as those of Velasquez, but he chose those subjects that are more sentimental, flower girls and ragged street boys, whose faces are soft and sweet, never coarse and hardened. He painted many religious or devotional pictures, and his influence in his native city may be known from the fact that even at the present day a Sevillian calls any unusually noble picture a ” Murillo.”

Characteristics. — Murillo painted in three distinct styles or manners. In those pictures (mostly genre), painted before he fell under the influence of Velasquez and of the Venetians and Vandykes in the Madrid Museum, there is a predominance of cool colors, browns and grays. After-ward his coloring is warm and comparatively rich. Most of his usual Bible scenes are painted in this second style.

For his Holy Conceptions and Annunciations he used what is called his misty style — an uncertain outline and a very soft, almost confused, mingling of colors.

His chiaroscuro is always soft. His Madonnas have earnest faces, are dark-eyed and dark-haired young matrons.

His renderings of child life are always most happy ; the Child-Christ possesses a charming mixture of divine and human expression.

Most important works :

“St. Anthony of Padua and Infant Jesus,” “St. Thomas of Villanueva,” ” St. Francis of Assisi,” and others. Museum, Seville.

” Children, Jesus and John Baptist,” ” Conception,” ” Annunciation,” ” Rebecca and Eliezer.” Museum of the Prado, Madrid. ” St. Elizabeth of Hungary ministering to Lepers.” Academy of

St. Ferdinand, Madrid.

“Virgin of the Rosary,” ” Virgin and Child.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

” Virgin and Child.” Gallery, Dresden.

” Immaculate Conception ” (numbered among the twelve pictures sometimes called ” World Pictures “I), “Holy Family ” (sometimes called ” Virgin of Seville “), “Angels’ Kitchen,” ” Beggar Boy.” Louvre, Paris.

” St. Anthony of Padua with Christ-Child.” Museum, Berlin.

” Melon Eaters,” ” Boys Playing Dice,” ” Boy and Girl counting Money.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.

” Divine Shepherd.” National Gallery, London.

After Velasquez and Murillo there are no names of special importance in Spanish art until Francisco Goya (1746-1828), who painted horribly realistic scenes of inquisition, tortures, bullfights, battles, etc. He was influenced in technique by Velasquez.

Since Goya, Spanish painting has been much influenced by French. A few names worthy of notice are: Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874), painter of oriental scenes; Raimundo de Madrazo (1841 ), portrait painter ; Eduardo Zamacois (1842-1871), painter of the higher genre ; Vincente Palmaroli ; Roman Ribera; and Martin Rico, landscape painter.