Sunday, April 10, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Murillo

If you have ever seen a painting of the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception, where she is draped in blue, standing on a cloud with several putti flying around her, then chances are it was painted by or inspired by Esteban Bartolomé Murillo. 
The Immaculate Conception was without question Murillo's favorite theme, as he did countless paintings of it, and many of them look very similar to the others.  They are pretty much as described above.  She is a shy, humble young girl dressed in white and draped with a blue cloth with little putti (or Charmin babies, as one of my college art professors called them) fluttering around and fading into the background.  Murillo painted over thirty versions of the Immaculate Conception, each one similar but with subtle differences every time. 
Most of Murillo's work was religious in theme, and quite often featured details specific to the Catholic tradition such as the Virgin Mary.  One of Murillo's influences for his early paintings was Zurburán (tomorrow's featured artist).  This can be seen as Murillo painted a series of tenebrist portraits of the Franciscan saints, particularly that of St. Francis of Assisi being his best known.  Other themes that Murillo was well known for included a series of beggar children.  These were portraits of young children portrayed with a certain innocence and charm.  Murillo was perhaps the only Baroque painter to portray poverty with this kind of care and empathy, and at times a light-hearted humor as seen in his paintings Boys Eating Grapes and Melon and The Toilette. 
Murillo worked mainly in Seville throughout his life, and co-founded an academy of painting in the city with two other artists, and served as the academy's first president.  He died in 1682, but his influence and style were carried on by his students and assistants, and for future generations in Seville all the way into the 19th century.

Esteban Bartolomé Murillo
Immaculate Conception
oil on canvas
206 x 144 cm.

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