Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Van Dyck to Yaper >> Velazquez_P1

Velazquez

art, madrid, spanish, pacheco, notable, principles, latter, realism, pupil and tion

Page: 1 2

VELAZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y, Spanish painter: b. Seville, 5 June 1599; d. Madrid, August 1660. He came of noble family, his father being Juan Rodriguez de Silva and his mother, Gerenima Velazquez, both classified in the rank of hidalgos. At the age of 13 he began the study of painting, first under Herrera and afterward under Pacheco. From the latter he thoroughly learned the principles of draw ing and of proper technique. From his earliest youth he seems to have had the settled convic tion that he must paint only what he could see and sensuously appreciate. He. had plenty of imagination but he always kept it subject to this sense of realism. He, therefore, appeared to have possessed much less imagination than he really did. He tried historical, religious and mythological subjects, portraits and landscapes, in fact every kind of painting that he could sub ject to his all-impelling sense of the necessity of realism. He probably had this realistic tendency of his nature accentuated in early youth through the teaching of his first instruc tor in art, Herrera, a very vigorous and capable painter, who had no love for the Italian influ ence on art so strongly in evidence in Spain in his day. His second teacher, Pacheco, who seems to have been paid to give his best atten tion to his talented pupil, thoroughly grounded him in the principles of his art, subject, propor tion, perspective, coloring and technique, illus trating his lessons practically by visits to the best pictures in the city. The boy lived and moved in an atmosphere of art. Pacheco, the author of a critical work on painting, was a good and sure critic of art and had a masterly way of presenting, in concrete manner, the les sons he wished to inculcate; and thus he taught his pupil to feel what he himself recognized to be the true principles of art, and to carry out these principles, which he was not able to do himself with any notable success. Pacheco seems to have recognized the fact that his pupil had greater talent than he himself, and he ap preciated at its full value the faculty he dis played for the minute study of detail. Noth ing was too small or insignificant for him to examine most carefully in all its bearings. These traits characterize all the work of Velaz quez from his early boyhood to mature man hood. Under Pacheco's tuition he studied every possible effect of light and shade and tried to convey them with brush directly to the canvas. These light and shade studies he applied to buildings, inns, peasant's huts, the human face and form, and to everything, in short, that might give him a more effective grasp of the subject. He carried his realism further, in an age when Spanish painters were little given to realism, and secured human models for study of the human body at rest and in action, in light and shade, and under varying conditions of both ; and more especially for the changing expressions of the human face. He thus became, in early manhood, a master of the depicting of feeling, expression, passion and character; and all his life he remained a student of every phase of nature, from the most flamboyant to the minut est and most secret. His interest was, there fore, in the life around him; and he did not require to reach out beyond it in order to com plete his sense of the unity of art. His work is, for this reason, the most national of all the greater Spanish artists. Pacheco, who saw the

coming greatness of his talented pupil, rewarded it in anticipation, by bestowing upon him the hand of his daughter, and he seems to have been inordinately proud of his son-in-law.

Already accounted an excellent artist in Seville, Velazquez set out for Madrid with let ters of introduction to people in authority. There he studied in the art galleries and painted some good portraits. But the inducement to remain in the capital not seeming great enough, he returned to Seville. Very shortly afterward, however, he was invited to return to Madrid by no less a personage than the Minister of the Crown, Olivarez, who sent him money to pay his own and Pacheco's expenses for a second trip to the capital. Both artists were so well thought of there that Olivares induced Velaz quez to send for his family, at the expense of the Crown, and to make his home in Madrid, where the young painter became the close friend of the art-loving Spanish sovereign, Philip IV, who conceived a great affection for him and considered him the greatest of all portrait paint ers. This friendship lasted for more than a third of a century, through which long period it was never once in danger of being broken or disturbed. In 1628 an event happened which made Velazquez desirous of seeing the great art centres of Europe, especially those of Italy. This event was the visit to Madrid of Rubens, the great Flemish artist, then in the height of his fame, and still vigorous, enthusiastic and endowed with strong force of character and the power of impressing others with the firm belief in the correctness of his own methods and the worth of his own achievements. He came to Madrid commissioned to paint certain pictures for the court. Velazquez was appointed by the Crown to be his guide, mentor and friend among all the art and art circles of the capital. In this connection he won the warm regard of Rubens who was not slow to recognize his great talent and his profound knowledge of art. The following year (1629) Velazquez was en abled to visit Italy through the generosity of the king and Olivares. There he studied the great masters industriously in Venice and Rome and made copies of several notable pictures for the king. At the same time, under the inspira tion of his surroundings he created much orig inal work, some of it of notable strength and beauty. Among his copies were (The Last Supper' and Crucifixion' by Tintoretto, and works by Raphael and Michelangelo. Per haps the most notable of his original work painted at this time is

Page: 1 2