Looking at the history of art, the dominance of Spanish painters can not be overlooked. As an important contributor to Western art, Spain has produced some of the most celebrated names in painting. The story of painting could not be told without mentioning names of painters such as Velazquez, Goya, or Picasso. Important for the development of traditional painting style, a large number of Spanish painters were crucial members of major avant-garde movements as well.
Due to its geographical and historical situation, Spain has been the beneficiary of many different artistic influences over the centuries. During the Neoclassical and Baroque periods, Spanish art was highly influenced by Italy and France. As much as this region absorbed various inspirations, Spain always held on its distinctive and characteristic style. This is seen as a result of the Moorish heritage, political and cultural climate during the Counter-Reformation, and the rise of Spanish power under the Bourbon dynasty.
Instrumental for the development of many European artistic movements, a number of Spanish painters spent their time abroad. Understood as one of the major centers of the art, Paris, the city of lights and bohemian nightlife was home to famous Spanish painters of the 20th century. It was here that Picasso changed the face of sculpture by introducing assemblage methods. Alongside Braque, the two artists created the concepts of Cubism and Synthetic Cubism that is seen as one of the pillars of modern and even contemporary art production. Influential for new and revolutionary thoughts and ideas, which changed the shape of both painting and sculpture, Spanish painters stood at the forefront of protest art. Picasso’s famous painting Guernica is possibly the most celebrated example of protest art. Spanish painters, like major German painters, were not hesitant in using their creativity to question authority and to comment on the aftermath and devastation of the two wars.
Presently, various Spanish contemporary painters are crucial for the development of the urban and street artworks. These contemporary authors never stop to amaze us as they represent, yet again, some of the most revolutionary application of paint.
From the beginning of art, Spanish painters offered some of the most beautiful, disturbing, and even some of the most erotic images. The following list of artists features some of the most important names of creativity in Spain. Without these famous Spanish painters, the face of art would not be as eclectic as we know it to be.
Editors’ Tip: The Arts in Spain (World of Art)
Offering a comprehensive analysis of Spain’s heritage, the understanding of Spanish art is reflected and brought closer to the reader. From Iberian and Roman beginnings, the book traces the development of the arts in Spain, examining the magnificent Islamic and Christian foundations at Cordoba and the Escorial, the idiosyncratic masterworks of El Greco, the Golden Age of Zurbaran and Velazquez, the art of Goya, and the innovative works of Picasso, Dali and Miro, and revealing that many of the most characteristic Spanish artistic currents had their origins far into the past.
Considered as one of the prominent figures of Spanish Renaissance, El Greco was defined as one of the most revolutionary Spanish painters. Rejecting naturalism in favor of more conceptual presentation and expressive use of the paint, Greco’s works influenced various movements to come. Best known for his elongated, tortured, often religious figures, his paintings were considered ahead of its time.
Featured image: El Greco – Christ Carrying the Cross. Image via elgreco.net
Francisco de Zurbaran was a Spanish Baroque painter who preferred to implement a naturalistic approach to his frequent depiction of various religious themes. He worked for monastic orders and the success of his commissions earned him a valuable reputation. A number of his theologically inspired paintings are simple yet are emotionally complex. As one of the celebrated naturalistic style painters, de Zurbaran was also valued for his skillful use of the light and shadow contrast.
Featured image: Francisco de Zurbaran – Artwork. Image via caravaggista.com
For major artists of the 20th-century, especially French Impressionist Edouard Manet, Diego Velazquez was described as the painter of painters. The author of many celebrated portraits, the Spanish painter was a member of King Philip IV’s royal court. His portraiture paintings of various members of the court and other nobles earned him admiration during his lifetime and later. In addition to his portraits, Velazquez produced scenes depicting historical and cultural events. His masterpiece Las Meninas today is proudly exhibited in Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.
Featured image: Diego Velazquez - Las Meninas. Image via widewalls.ch
Praised and often copied throughout the Spanish empire, Bartolome Esteban Murillo was considered as one of the most popular Baroque religious painters of the 17th-century. Also admired for his paintings of contemporary women and children, his depictions of the every day are considered as valuable records of his time. In his later years, the influence of Flemish painters transcended onto his canvas as the painter used rich colors, broad brushstrokes, and softly modeled forms.
Featured image: Bartolome Esteban Murillo – Self portrait. Image via Wikimedia.org
Often referred to as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns, Francisco de Goya is considered as the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th-century. Early on in his career, Goya was celebrated for his royal portraits and in 1779 he won an appointment as a painter to the royal court. After an illness left him completely deaf, Goya’s work became progressively darker and pessimistic. His later painting, murals, prints and drawings reflect his bleak outlook on personal, but more importantly social and political issues. His etching seriesCaprichos and Los Disparates reflect on the most disturbing and nightmarish aspects of life.
Featured image: Francisco de Goya – 3rd of May. Image via widewalls.ch
The mastery of Pablo Picasso spans across an array of artistic disciplines and styles. As one of the most dominant and influential artists, he helped to re-shape the face of painting and introduce abstraction in sculpture as well. The father of Cubism, master of Expressionism and Surrealism with his simplified, distorted forms and bold, flat colors, Picasso’s revolutionary representation of reality changed the face of art.
Featured image: Pablo Picasso - Head of a Woman. Image via widewalls.ch
Inspired by the exploration of the human psyche, Joan Miro created painting, sculpture, and prints in a Surrealist fantasy manner. His abstract paintings represented a revolt against the conventional paintings methods which the artist understood as the support of the bourgeois society. For this reason, he declared an assassination of painting favoring non-representational forms. In his later years, his style evolved from the tension of the poetic impulse and his visions of life. Apart from painting, he frequently worked in lithography and produced many murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces.
Featured image: Joan Miro - Lizard. Image via widewalls.ch
Understood as one of the most versatile and prolific artists of the 20th-century, Salvador Dali is associated with the Surrealist movement. The importance of the teachings and ideas of Freudian theory helped Dali create some of the both iconic and most ambiguous images. Themes of erotic, death, and decay, dominate the artist’s work often understood to span from autobiographical material and childhood memories. His surrealist dreamscapes of the subconscious desires the Spanish artist produced not only in painting, but in his sculptures, films, and photographs.
Featured image: Salvador Dali – The Persistence of Memory. Image via maxmcnabb.com
The Spanish painter Antoni Tapies is defined as one of the most famous European artists of his generation. His textured, gestural, and sculptural wall works express the artist’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War. The urban landscape of vandalized and graffitied walls were inspirations for his most celebrated works. Incorporating found materials, his abstract paintings follow the tradition of Art Informel.
Featured image: Antoni Tapies – Lesperit Catala. Image via hoyesarte.com
Using his creativity to ridicule dictators, bullfighters, the Spanish gentleman, and even celebrated artist such as Marcel Duchamp and Joan Miro, Eduardo Arroyo is often followed by controversy. Largely self-thought, Arroyo works with painting, sculpture and is the author of various stage sets. In the midst of the avant-garde experimentation with abstraction, Arroyo created his compositions influenced by Realism, Expressionism, and Abstraction. Borrowing his images from a number of sources, including advertisements and graphic design, his iconic colorful images are defined to stand in-between new figuration and pop art.
Featured image: Eduardo Arroyo - Naturaleza Viva, Fausto con sombrero. Image via alchetron.com