Francisco de Zurbarán
(b. 1598, Fuente de Cantos, d. 1664, Madrid) was a
Spanish painter of saints and churchmen. His use of sharply
defined, often brilliant, colors, minute detail in simple
compositions, strongly three-dimensional modeling of figures, and
the shadowed light that brightly illuminates his subjects all give
his paintings a solidity and dignity evocative of the solitude and
solemnity of monastic life. His work at its best fuses two dominant
tendencies in Spanish art, realism and mysticism.
born of Basque ancestry in Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz Province, on
November 7, 1598. He was apprenticed to a minor Spanish painter in
Seville but appears to have been influenced early in his career by
In 1617 he went to work in Llerena, and in 1629, at
the invitation of the town council, he settled in Seville.
Zurbarán spent the next 30 years there, with the exception of
two years (1634–35) that he spent in Madrid working for the
royal court. Zurbarán left Seville in 1658, after his
reputation declined there; he died in Madrid on August 27, 1664.
only slightly influenced by
Diego Rodriguez Velázquez
Jusepe de Ribera.
Late in his career, however, he changed his
style, according to some critics, for the worse, after being
Bartolomé Estéban Murillo.
earliest known work, painted when he was 18 years old, is
Immaculate Conception (private collection, Bilbao). Other notable
early works include Crucifixion (1627–29, Museum of Fine
Arts, Seville); several large scenes of the life of St Peter
Nolasco (died 1256), the founder of the Mercedarians, originally
done for a convent in Seville (1628–29); The Apotheosis of
St. Thomas Aquinas (1631, Museum of Fine Arts, Seville); and Still
Life with Oranges (1633, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).
The image that
accompanies this article is a detail from
Saint Luke as a Painter before Christ on the Cross
(see full painting, below). It is widely believed to be a self-portrait.