baptized January 1, 1618, Sevilla, Spain
died April 3, 1682, Sevilla
the most popular Baroque religious painter of 17th-century Spain, noted
for his idealized, sometimes preciousmanner. Among his chief patrons
were the religious orders, especially the Franciscans, and the
confraternities in Sevilla (Seville) and Andalusia.
Among Murillo's earliest works is the Virgin of the Rosary (c. 1642). In
the vestigial style of his artistically conservative Sevillian master,
Juan del Castillo, this early work combines 16th-century Italian
Mannerism and Flemish realism. The 11 paintings that originally hung in
the small cloister of San Francisco in Sevilla—e.g., the Ecstasy of St.
Diego of Alcalá (1646)—are executed in the more contemporary
naturalistic style of the Sevillian school, established by Diego
Velázquezand continued by Francisco de Zurbarán. That series is
characterized by realism and tenebrism (contrasting light and shade) and
use of commonplace models, with an emphasis on genre or scenes of
In the 1650s a striking transformation of style occurred, usually
attributed to a visit to Madrid, where Murillo undoubtedly met Velázquez
and studied the works of Titian, Rubens, and Van Dyck in the royal
collections. The softly modeled forms, rich colours, and broad brushwork
of the 1652 Immaculate Conception reflect direct visual contact with the
art of the 16th-century Venetians and the Flemish Baroque painters. The
St. Leandro and St. Isidoro (1655) are even further removed from the
simple naturalism of his earlier Franciscan saints. These seated
figures, more than life size, are in the grand manner of Baroque
portraiture, which had become fashionable at the Spanish court.
The Vision of St. Anthony (1656), one of Murillo's most celebrated
pictures, is an early example of his so-called “vaporous” style, which
was derived from Venetian painting.In 1660 Murillo was one of the
founders and first president of the Academy of Painting in Sevilla.
During the two following decades he executed several important
commissions, generally representing dramatized genre on a grand scale.
From 1678 onward Murillo worked on another series of paintings, for the
Hospicio de Venerables Sacerdotes in Sevilla, which included the
celebrated Soult Immaculate Conception (1678). Murillo's late style is
exemplified by his unfinished works for the Capuchin church at Cádiz and
the Two Trinities (popularly known as the “Holy Family”). The often
mystical significance of his subjects is countered by the idealized
reality of his figures based on familiar human archetypes, with natural
gestures and tender, devout expressions, creating an effect of intimate
rather than exalted religious sentiment.
Murillo had many pupils and innumerable followers. His paintings were
copied and imitated throughout Spain and its empire. He was the first
Spanish painter to achieve widespread European fame, and until the 19th
century he was the only Spanish artist whose works were extensively
known outside the Hispanic world.