Bartolomé Estebán Murillo

Born 1618. Died 1682.
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Bartolomé Estebán Murillo Biography

Proclaimed by many scholars as one of the most important Spanish painters of the 17th century, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo has been established as one of the great painters of the Baroque period. Murillo was born in December 1617, in Seville, Spain, where he would live and work for his entire life. The youngest of fourteen children, he was orphaned before his tenth birthday, and raised by one of his older sisters and her husband. His experience with art began sometime in the 1630s, when he undertook training from the painter Juan del Castillo and completed his first canvases, two religious scenes done for the monastery of La Regina Angelorum.

The year 1645 marked a significant change in Murillo’s life: he was married and soon expecting his first child, but he also received his first major commission: thirteen canvases for the Little Cloister of the Convento de San Francisco in Seville. Murillo would make his name producing religious scenes, particularly for religious groups such as the First Order (also known as the Franciscans), although he did experiment with landscape and genre painting (albeit always done in a romanticized, idyllic manner).

Murillo’s early and mid-career paintings were largely executed in a muted color scheme, and composition and figuration were attended to with modest naturalistic style. During the 1650s, however, his artistic mode underwent a rather dramatic transformation—attributed by some to an excursion to Madrid where he would have encountered the work of other master painters such as Diego Velázquez, Titian and Peter Paul Rubens. Murillo’s work began exhibiting a richer, more varied palette broader brushwork.

Throughout his mid and late career, Murillo experienced great critical and monetary success until his death in 1682. Although his work fell out of favor in subsequent centuries, today there has been a resurgence of interest in his work. In 2017 the Frick Collection in New York mounted an exhibition of his paintings, marking the 400th anniversary of his birth by reuniting and exhibiting the only two known self-portraits by Murillo. His work is also housed in numerous major collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Louvre Museum, Paris; and the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

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Artist Image: Photo: The National Gallery, London