Spanish painter. Based in Seville, he painted religious subjects in a powerful, austere style, often focusing on a single figure in prayer, for example St Francis (National Gallery, London). He also painted still lifes and a number of portraits of women in 17th-century dress but described, according to a poetic custom of the time, as female saints, for example St Margaret (National Gallery, London).
His still lifes have the same concentrated simplicity as his figures, an example being Oranges, Lemons and a Rose (Uffizi, Florence). His style was derived from Caravaggio: a combination of realism and dramatic contrasts of light and shade.
Born in Extremadura, Zurbarán came from a peasant family and was apprenticed as a boy to a painter in Seville, Juan de las Roelas (c. 1558–1625). He was made town painter 1628, and executed many religious works for churches and monasteries. He was a friend of the young Velázquez, and was influenced in style by him and by the dark manner of painting then cultivated in southern Spain and derived from José de Ribera and the Neapolitan School. He lived in Madrid in later life, and was appointed one of the painters to Philip IV 1650, but his austere and simple art suffered in competition with the sensational productions of Murillo.
His tenebrist style, with its massively simple figures or objects, clear, sober colours, and deep solemnity of feeling expressed in thickly applied paint, made him the ideal painter of the austere religion of Spain and also South America, to where a great number of his works were exported, having considerable influence.
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