Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Diego Velazquez

Diego Velazquez was born in Spain in 1599. When he was eleven he told his parents that he wanted to be a painter. He immediately became apprenticed to a religious painter, Pacheco, in Seville. Pacheco was impressed by Velazquez’s talent and hoped the boy would grow up to be a religious painter like him. Velazquez wasn’t interested in painting for churches, though. He loved to paint pictures of the people of Seville. He was especially good at painting scenes in taverns and kitchens. The picture shown below, An Old Woman Frying Eggs, is a good example of this.
When Velazquez was nineteen, he married Pacheco’s daughter, they moved into a house together, and Velazquez opened his own studio. After eight years of study, he was now a master painter.

In order to earn enough money to support his wife and young daughter, Velazquez began to create religious paintings for the church. He used real models from Seville as the basis of his paintings. Because of this, the people in his paintings looked alive. Velazquez never stopped painting the subjects he loved, though. He wandered through Seville, collecting ideas for paintings.

In 1623, Velazquez moved to Madrid. Soon after, he became “Painter to the King.” His portraits were adored by the royalty but other painters were jealous of Velazquez’s position. Below is one of Velazquez's early portraits of King Philip IV.
Velazquez enjoyed his position as “Painter to the King” but he longed for more freedom. He was able to take a trip to Italy to study the work of the Italian masters but he was rushed back to Spain when a prince was born.

Velazquez had to be available all the time to paint for the King. He even went with the King to battlefields. On the King’s second trip to the battle front, the Prince became ill and died. The Queen had died just before the trip and the King was extremely saddened. The King was forced to marry again because he had to have another son. Who would take over the Spanish throne?

The King’s new marriage gave Velazquez a reason to go back to Italy: the whole palace needed to be redecorated and Velazquez was put in charge of decorating it. He couldn’t paint enough to decorate an entire palace so he bought paintings by some of the Italian masters.
Velazquez loved his time away from the palace. He created many paintings and he loved the freedom of choosing his own subjects. While was in Rome, he even painted a portrait of the Pope (above).

In 1659, Velazquez was awarded the highest honor: the cross of Santiago. This meant that Velazquez was now a noble. He died only a year later.

Shown above is one of Velazquez's most famous paintings, The Maids of Honour.

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