Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez most commonly known as Velázquez is the most seminal Spanish painter of the 17th century and universally recognized as one of the world’s greatest painter. Thomas Eakins said Velazquez’s painting The Weavers was the most beautiful piece of painting he had seen in all his life.

Though he began his career painting genre scenes that were often redolent with religious undertones, when he moved to Madrid, he was commissioned to paint King Philip IV, on the recommendation of the Count-Duke of Olivares. Upon seeing the finished portrait, the King decided that no one else would ever paint him and appointed Velazquez as his court-painter.



Although Velazquez was paid to create work for royalty, he maintained an extreme commitment to also depict everyday life and scenes and turning it into something sacred. Velazquez’s paintings are refreshingly sophisticated yet simple. His style was far ahead of his time, depicting detail and its visual phenomenon whilst utilizing a dynamic variety of brushstrokes along with unity of tone and color. This style will later be described as a forerunner of both Realism and Impressionism.

He is a class apart from his contemporaries due to the visual unity his pictures possess. This was achieved by subordinating his edges to the impression of one wide, all-embracing visual focus and considering the background and object as one thing.  After saturating yourself with his pictures, other paintings look cut-out and patchy. Painters as diverse as Millet, Manet, Sargent, Degas, Courbet, and Whistler admired and studied Velázquez’s paintings.


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I’ve expressed the importance of drawing in my previous post but there are always exceptions. Velazquez is one of them. A lot of sources suggest that Velazquez preferred to work directly on the canvas without any preliminary drawings, which allowed him to go wherever his ideas and painting led him. Sometimes having to stitch extra pieces of canvas to extend the compositions. Note, for example, the surprisingly abstract depiction of the helmet in the painting Mars Resting and the palette in Las Meninas or the impressionistic use of brushstrokes for the fabric in the portrait of Philip IV in brown and silver creating form out of pure color and light.




If you would like to learn more about techniques, methods and the palette of the great Diego Velazquez and reproduce some of his magic in your own paintings, join us in the Reproducing Velazquez Summer Course on from 16 July to 20 July taught by Jordi Diaz Alamà.



Ayuesh Agarwal