Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Dates1617 - 1682

The market for Bartolomé Estebán Murillo's pictures was so large and lucrative that the king refused to allow their export from the country. Murillo himself never left Spain. Living with his uncle after his parents died, the young Murillo made devotional pictures to sell at Seville fairs. Later, he was apprenticed to local painters. Like all Spanish painters of his time working outside the court, Murillo mainly devoted himself to religious subjects. He created his first serious, successful works--eleven paintings for a Seville convent--around 1645.

Murillo's early style was highly realistic, and his models were often local peasants. He probably spent some time in Madrid around 1648, where he copied works by artists including Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. His work became softer and more tender as a result of these studies. In Murillo's last years, the grace and lightness of his "vaporous" paintings gave them a Rococo quality decades before the Rococo style was firmly established.

In 1660 Murillo founded and served as president of the Seville Academy. His workshop was a major force in the art world, but he taught pupils with the same gentle spirit he breathed into his art. His influence dominated the Seville school for a century and a half. Even today, in Spain a good painting is called a Murillo.