Francisco de

Spain • 1598−1664

Biography and information

Francisco de Zurbarán, the genius of the “golden age” of Spanish painting, has a reputation as an artist of the mystical and even in some way “sinister”. It is often called "Spanish Caravaggio"- however, not because of the turbulent life consisting of adventures and crimes, but because for quite a long time Zurbaran used Karavadzhievsky sharp contrasts of light and shadow. And they say that no one has managed to express a special, ardent and passionate Spanish religiosity with such fullness and strength as Francisco de Zurbaranu did.

For a genius of this magnitude, surprisingly little is known about the personality of Zurbaran. They even argue about what family he was from.

A popular legend, which often spills biographies of artists, tells how little Francisco, the son of the poor peasant Luis Zurbaran, shepherd the sheep on the outskirts of the small village of Fuente de Cantos and drew something from a tree of free time. A distinguished seigneur passed by, he noticed the boy and took him to Seville to study. It was no wonder that Zurbaran subsequently depicted a lamb with such fantastic material tangibility ("Lamb of God").

But the mother of Zurbaran Isabella Marquez came from an old aristocratic family: her husband could hardly be a peasant. Recently, a popular version is that Zurbaran’s father was selling expensive fabrics, and a whole gallery of Christian martyrs written by FranciscoCasilda, Dorothea, Margarita, Apollonia, Isabeland others) in gorgeous dresses - nothing more than an advertisement for a family business.

And after all the truth: holiness in their appearance is hardly visible, but the luxurious texture and variety of fabrics can not but arouse admiration. The only problem is that during the creation of this mysterious cycle Zurbaranu was about forty years old and he left parental home long ago.

One thing is certain: when Francisco turned 15, his father took him to the capital of Andalusia, Seville, to his friend Pedro Díaz de Villanueva. Artel Vilanueva painted the statues used for religious processions. But Zurbaran understood early: he had nothing to learn from Villanueva and entered the Academy, headed by the art theorist Francisco Pacheco. Here he not only learned the basics of mastery, but also met two other famous artists in the future - Alonso Canoand Diego Velázquez. And if Kano would later invariably see his opponent in Zurbaran and weave intrigues against him, then Velasquez would be Zurbaranu's friend for many years.

At the age of 19, Zurbaran completed a course of study with Pacheco, but he acted strangely both for his comrades and for his teacher: refusing to take the qualifying exam, he left Andalusia for his homeland, in Extremadura, where he settled in the small town of Lleren. About his work in this period is not known. But it is known that Zurbaran hurried to marry. His chosen one was a young and non-poor widow Maria Perez Jimenez, who gave birth to an artist of three children, but after six years of marriage, she suddenly died. After a couple of years, Zurbaran marries again. And again on the rich widow. Beatrice de Morales was eight years older. Alas, we are not destined to find out how these women looked - unlike most artists who wrote their beloveds with inspiration, Zurbaran didn’t allow viewers into their intimate life.

Portraits of Zurbaran himself have not survived either. He must have thought it was sinful or immodest to push out his own self. The noise and brilliance of Seville, and later - the metropolitan gloss of Madrid remained alien to his restrained and stern patriarchal disposition, which was formed in the province.

But it is believed that one self-portrait Zurbaran still wrote. Many times in his career he will repeat the same pictorial story - “The Crucifixion”. On a uniform black background, a wooden cross stands out brightly with an illuminated figure nailed to it. The contrast of light and shade so vividly “sculpts” the folds of fabric, body muscles, even nails on the cross, that when in 1627 the first of the "Crucifixes"Zurbaran will be placed in the semi-dark niche of one of the churches, the worshipers will think that this is not a painting, but a sculpture. And in “Crucifixion” of the late 1630s(he can now be seen in Prado of Madrid) Zurbaran will suddenly have another hero - the evangelist and painter Luke, standing, having raised his hooked-nosed profile, by the cross. Some art critics believe that this is Zurbaran's self-portrait.

Zurbaran’s career really began around 1626, when, while living in the province, he unexpectedly received a large order from Seville. The Dominican monastery of San Pablo ordered him a series of 21 paintings, which at the end very quickly made her author famous. It is noted that the instant fame that gained Zurbaran is rarely found in the history of painting. But it is obvious that the restrained-emotional structure of his canvases perfectly corresponded to the phenomenon of Spanish religiosity. After the Dominicans, the non-poor Order of the Mercedarians addressed Zurbaran - pictures were painted for them from the life of a local saint pedro nolasco. Zurbaran did not have time to complete the work for the Mercedarians, as the Franciscans became interested in his person: from them the artist receives an order to perform 4 canvases dedicated to the life of a 12th-century Christian mystic Bonaventures. Well, almost monochrome images of St. Francis (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) become, as they would say now, the “business card” of Zurbaran.

"None of the artists could not portray the human faith so convincingly"- says modern British art critic Waldemar Januschak.

When, by the year 1630, the artist, tired to roam around the cities, finally moved to live in Seville, the city authorities were extremely surprised that he still does not have official status and gave Zurbaran the title "Honorary painter of Seville"than, by the way, caused the jealousy of Alonso Cano. Now Zurbaran fulfills the orders of the city authorities, but also continues to cooperate with the monastic orders: the famous "The Vision of Alonso Rodriguez"written for the Jesuits as well “Apotheosis of Thomas Aquinas”- for Franciscans.

The paradox of Zurbaran’s creative manner in the combination of the scale and monumentality of his works with the savings of expressive means reaching to asceticism that he uses. Art historians write with admiration about Zurbaran: "It is impossible to achieve greater effect, using such insignificant means".

This, by the way, concerns not only religious compositions, but also a few still lifes for which Zurbaran is also famous. "Still Life with Four Vessels", "Still life with lemons and oranges"- their perfection in simplicity. There is nothing superfluous in them, no redundancy.

The Spanish glory of Zurbaran, meanwhile, is growing and reaching Madrid. Velazquez, who works at the court, invites a friend of his youth to work on the design of a new royal residence, the Buen Retiro Palace. Here Zurbaran tries himself in genres that are not peculiar to him - he writes a battle scene "Defense of Cadiz"and especially to King Philip IV scenes of the exploits of Hercules (1, 2) - favorite of the Spaniards of the ancient hero. But, obviously, Zurbaran himself understands that this is “not his,” and returns to Seville, despite the fact that the king tried to keep the master in Madrid, having granted him the title of court painter.

In the 1640s, Seville gradually loses the significance of the cultural capital, besides, half of the city is mown by a ruthless plague epidemic. In 1639, the second wife of Zurbaran died, and after 5 years he married again, acquiring six more children in the new marriage, none of which, alas, would live to mature age. A son of Zurbaran named Juan was the only child of his father who inherited his craft. is he also became an artist, wrote still lifes (in modern exhibitions they are exhibited along with the works of his great father) and helped his father a lot in his workshop, but Juan’s early death was a huge blow to Zurbaran.

In Seville, there are no wealthy customers who would be interested in the art of Zurbaran. In addition, fashion has elusively changed: now in honor were not his harsh and clear compositions, but multicolored and slightly sweet, in the spirit of two decades by the younger artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo. Out of desperation, Zurbaran even tried to imitate him: the color of his last works became much lighter, sentimentality unknown before (1, 2). But it was all in vain: the artist did not manage to return the former glory.

The last few years before his death on August 27, 1664, Zurbaran lived in poverty and oblivion.

Author: Anna Yesterday