Artists El Greco Diego Velázquez Francisco de Goya Pablo Picasso Salvador Dalí
El Greco El Greco was born in 1541 on the Greek island of Crete. His real name is Domenikos Theotocopoulos; the name by which he is universally known, El Greco, means “the Greek.” Little is known of his younger years. When he was in his 20s, he spent time studying with Italian artists in Venice and Rome. Most of his works consist of religious paintings and portraits. This is El Greco’s self-portrait.
In 1577 El Greco moved to Spain. He settled in Toledo and spent the rest of his life there. Many of his paintings are still located in Toledo, although the Prado also houses quite a few. The painting here is well- known and is called The Burial of Count Orgaz. It hangs in the Church of San Tomé in Toledo.
While El Greco, unlike most other Spanish artists, probably doesn’t have a single painting for which he is best known, he does have a distinctive style. Notice the elongated face and fingers in this painting, entitled The Repentant Peter.
Diego Velázquez Diego Velázquez, born in Seville in 1599, was a more conventional painter than most of the other well-known Spanish artists. At the age of 11 or 12, he was apprenticed to a master painter, and at the age of 18 he became qualified as a master painter himself.
During his youth he did religious paintings and a type of scene paintings called “bodegones.” At the age of 24 he became court painter, and from then on he became known for his portraits. He remained a court favorite for the rest of his life. His most famous painting, Las Meninas (“The Maids of Honor”), hangs in the Prado in Madrid.
Francisco de Goya Francisco de Goya, frequently called “the father of modern art,” was born in a village in the province of Zaragoza in 1746. Goya followed a more traditional path than Dalí and Picasso. As a teenager, he entered the service of a local artist. He later enrolled in the royal academy and then became the court painter.
Later, however, he became disillusioned with the vanity of court life, and his paintings became darker and more violent. In 1808 Spaniards rose up against French domination, and many were executed. Goya’s most famous painting is called El 2 de mayo.
When he was in his 70s, he became very ill, and after he recovered, his works became even darker. His most famous work from that period is Saturn Devouring One of His Children. Goya died in 1828.
Pablo Picasso Picasso, born in Málaga in 1881, was a rebel from the start and, as a teenager, began to frequent the Barcelona cafés where intellectuals gathered. He soon went to Paris, the capital of art, and soaked up the works of Manet, Gustave Courbet, and Toulouse- Lautrec, whose sketchy style impressed him greatly.
Picasso went through several periods before striking upon Cubism, the style for which he is best known. Cubism is essentially the fragmenting of three-dimensional forms into flat areas of pattern and color, overlapping and intertwining so that shapes and parts of the human anatomy are seen from the front and back at the same time. This painting is called Portrait de Ambroise Vollard.
The bombing that resulted in the total destruction of the town of Guernica during Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war is the subject of Picasso’s best-known work, entitled simply Guernica. Picasso, completely opposed to Franco (dictator from 1937 until his death in 1975), refused to allow his painting into Spain as long as Franco lived. For years it was housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, but now it’s in the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid.
Salvador Dalí Salvador Dalí was born in 1904 in Figueras, Spain, a small town about two hours from Barcelona in the province of Catalonia. Although Dalí excelled in his academic pursuits, he never took final examinations, deeming that he had no need for the type of education offered by formal schooling.
Dalí came under the influence of two forces that shaped his philosophy and his art. The first was Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious, introduced to Dalí in Freud's book The Interpretation of Dreams. The second was his association with the French surrealists. When Dalí visited Paris for the first time, he was introduced to the leading surrealists in the movement, but because of his lack of interest in politics, he was eventually shunned by this group.
Under the influence of the surrealist movement, Dalí's artistic style crystal- ized into the disturbing blend of precise realism and dream-like fantasy that became his trade- mark. Dalí often de- scribed his pictures as “hand-painted dream photographs” and had certain favorite and recur- ring images, such as the human figure with half- open drawers protruding from it, burning giraffes, and watches bent and flowing as if made from melting wax. This painting is called Woman with Drawers.
My personal favorite is Swans Reflecting Elephants, which is on display at the Dalí museum in Paris.
Dalí’s most famous painting is called The Persistence of Memory.