For the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez, see Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, usually referred to as Diego Velázquez, (born June 6, 1599, died August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter, and the foremost artist at the court of King Philip IV in Madrid. Velázquez was an outstanding portrait painter, and has remained the greatest artist of the Spanish Baroque.
Velázquez was born in Seville as the eldest son of Rodríguez de Silva and Jerónima Velázquez. When he was ten, Velázquez began an apprenticeship with the local painter Francisco Herrera d.e., and later with Francisco Pacheco, his future father-in-law. In 1622 and 1623 he made his first trips to Madrid, hoping to attract the king's attention, and he was finally successful in being accepted as court painter at the castle in 1624. As the king's painter, Velázquez was given the opportunity to study the castle's collection of Renaissance paintings , and especially the pictures of the Venetian masters were to have great importance for his later works.
In 1628, Velázquez became acquainted with the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, who visited Madrid for a few months that year. Rubens encouraged Velázquez to travel to Italy to study the Italian Renaissance painters, and Velázquez made two longer trips to Italy after this (1629-31 and 1649-51), financed by King Philip. On these trips, he made several purchases of Italian art for the king, which was to be decisive for the unique collection at the later Museo del Prado in Madrid. During his last trip to Italy, he executed some of his best-known portraits, including of his servant Juan de Pareja and Pope Innocent X, in addition to the nude Venus at the mirror.
Velázquez worked continuously to improve his formal position at court, alongside his work as the king's painter. His successful career eventually ended with the position of Chief of Court at the Castle, which gave him the opportunity to be made a Knight of the Order of Santiago in 1659, on the recommendation of the King.
In 1660, Velázquez was in charge of the wedding ceremony when Maria Theresa married Louis XIV of France. Shortly after the ceremony, exhausted by this demanding task, he was stricken with a high fever and died after a few days' illness.
Velázquez early developed a realistic painting style that differed from the idealized representation of the world of the Renaissance and Mannerism. This, together with the use of simplified surfaces, dissolved brush strokes and a highly developed understanding of light and spatiality, made him a role model for later generations of artists, such as his compatriot Francisco Goya and 19th-century French realists and impressionists such as Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet.
His most famous work, the group portrait Las Meninas (1656), is considered by many to be one of the most accomplished and complex figure compositions in Western art, of all time. The French philosopher Michel Foucault devoted an entire chapter to this image in his book Ordene og Tingene (1966). There he claims that Las Meninas meant a paradigm shift (or a new episteme in Foucault's terminology) in Western art, as it attempts to make the viewer the protagonist of the image.
Famous 20th century artists such as Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon have made their own versions of Velázquez's pictures.
The Drunken Bolts (1628)
Vulcan's Forge (1630)
Breda's capitulation (1635)
The Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650)
Venus at the Mirror (1650)
Las Meninas (1656)
Spinnerskene or Arachne's Fable (1657)
(en) Diego Velázquez - category of image, video or sound on Commons
(en) Diego Velázquez - gallery of images, video or audio on Commons
Article on Velázquez from The Guardian