Spain has a rich tradition in art and has played a major role in the history of western painting. Spanish Golden Age was a period from the early 16th century to the late 17th century which saw the nation flourishing in arts and literature; and, among other things, becoming an important contributor to the European art world. The best known artists of this era are El Greco, Diego Velazquez, Zurbaran and Murillo. Francisco Goya, the most important Spanish artist of late 18th and early 19th centuries, is often considered as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Spanish artists have had an enormous impact on modern art with some of the most influential artists of the modern era including Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali all coming from Spain. Know more about the contribution of Spain to the art world by studying the 10 most famous Spanish artists and their most renowned paintings.

 

Francisco Zurbaran
Francisco Zurbaran

#10 Francisco de Zurbarán

Lifespan: 1598 – August 27, 1664

Chiaroscuro was an artistic technique first developed during the Renaissance in Italy. It is marked by the use of strong tonal contrasts between light and dark to model three-dimensional forms, often to dramatic effect. Francisco Zurbarán is known for the forceful, realistic use of chiaroscuro in his paintings. He was devoted to an artistic expression of religion and faith; and most of his best known works are religious paintings capable of evoking intense feelings of devotion. He also created several still life paintings including the renowned work Still-life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose. Along with El Greco and Diego Velázquez, Zurbaran is one of the most celebrated artists of the Spanish Golden Age.

Masterpiece: Saint Serapion (1628)

Saint Serapion (1628)
Saint Serapion (1628) – Francisco Zurbaran

Other Famous Works:-

The Crucifixion (1627)

Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose (1633)

 

Juan Gris
Juan Gris

#9 Juan Gris

Lifespan: March 23, 1887 – May 11, 1927

Juan Gris is one of the best known figures of the art movement Cubism, an influential movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture. In Cubism the artwork is analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form; also it is depicted from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Unlike Picasso whose Cubist works were practically monochromatic; Gris created his paintings and sculptures with bright harmonious colors in daring, novel combinations. He later turned towards Crystal Cubism which emphasized on flat surface activity and large overlapping geometric planes. Juan Gris is the most famous Spanish Cubist artist after Picasso and he created some of the most important works of the movement.

Masterpiece: Portrait of Pablo Picasso (1912)

Portrait of Pablo Picasso (1912)
Portrait of Pablo Picasso (1912) – Juan Gris

Other Famous Works:-

Still Life with Flowers (1912)

Violin and glass (1915)

 

Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Bartolome Esteban Murillo

#8 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Lifespan: December, 1617 – April 3, 1682

Before the appreciation of the art of Velazquez, Zurbaran and El Greco in the 19th century; Murillo was the most famous Spanish painter. He was not only the most celebrated painter in Spain but also one of the most famous artists in all of Europe. He had many pupils and innumerable followers; and his paintings were the most prized Spanish artworks. Esteban Murillo was most known for his religious paintings but he also created a number of lively realist paintings of flower girls, street urchins etc. which give a captivating account of everyday life in his times. His style was marked by sweetness and sentimentality in contrast to the darker art of his contemporaries.

Masterpiece: The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables (1678)

Immaculate Conception of Soult (1678)
Immaculate Conception of Soult (1678) – Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Other Famous Works:-

Christ the Good Shepherd (1660)

The Young Beggar (1650)

 

Joaquin Sorolla
Joaquin Sorolla

#7 Joaquín Sorolla

Lifespan: February 27, 1863 – August 10, 1923

Impressionism was an influential art movement which originated in France and was marked by distinctive brush strokes, vivid colours, ordinary subject matter, candid pose and most importantly, emphasis on accurate depiction of light. Sorolla excelled in dexterous representation of the people and landscape under the sunlight of his native land, thus reflecting the spirit of Impressionism in many of his paintings. He is one of most productive Spanish painters. He created over 2000 paintings, primarily portraits; landscapes; and monumental works of social and historical themes. Joaquín Sorolla was one of the leading Spanish artists of his time and he is perhaps the most famous Spanish painter associated with Impressionism.

Masterpiece: Sad Inheritance (1899)

Sad Inheritance (1899)
Sad Inheritance (1899) – Joaquin Sorolla

Other Famous Works:-

Walk on the Beach (1909)

Sewing the Sail (1896)

 

El Greco
El Greco

#6 El Greco

Lifespan: 1541 – April 7, 1614

Born Doménikos Theotokópoulos on an island in present day Greece, El Greco got his popular name due to his Greek origin. After building his early career in Italy, he migrated to Spain in 1577, where he produced his mature works. El Greco excelled as a painter of religious subjects but was also equally adept in portraiture and landscapes. His art is considered a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism; and is so individualistic that art historians struggle to place him in any conventional school. His masterpiece, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, is a prime example of Mannerism, depicts a visionary experience and contains an impressive array of portraits. It is seen by art critics as the coming together of all the extraordinary attributes of his art.

Masterpiece: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (1588)

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (1588) - El Greco
The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (1588) – El Greco

Other Famous Works:-

View of Toledo (1600)

Opening of the Fifth Seal (1614)

 

Joan Miro
Joan Miro

#5 Joan Miró

Lifespan: April 20, 1893 – December 25, 1983

Surrealism was an influential art movement in the 20th century. Surrealist artists rejected rationalism and literary realism; and instead focused on channeling the unconscious mind to unveil the power of the imagination. Joan Miro was one of the first artists who developed automatic drawing to undo traditional techniques in painting, and hence, along with André Masson, represented the beginning of Surrealism as an art movement. His work is also considered a precursor to Abstract Expressionism and he is regarded as the forefather of that art movement. Hence Miro was an essential part of the two most dominant art movements of the 20th century. Internationally acclaimed during his time, Joan Miro is regarded as a towering figure in modern art.

Masterpiece: The Farm (1922)

The Farm (1922) - Joan Miro
The Farm (1922) – Joan Miro

Other Famous Works:-

The Harlequin’s Carnival (1925)

Blue II (1961)

 

Diego Velazquez
Diego Velazquez

#4 Diego Velázquez

Lifespan: 1599 – August 6, 1660

Diego Velazquez was an important painter during his time and the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV of Spain. However, his popularity spread outside Spain only in the beginning of the 19th century when his artwork became a model for realist and impressionist painters. Since then Velazquez has been regarded as one of the most influential painters in European history and famous modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to him by recreating several of his celebrated works. The masterpiece of Velazquez, Las Meninas, has been described to represent the “theology of painting” and “the true philosophy of the art” by notable artists.

Masterpiece: Las Meninas (1656)

Las Meninas by Velazquez
Las Meninas (1656) – Diego Velazquez

Other Famous Works:-

Portrait of Innocent X (1650)

Rokeby Venus (1650)

 

Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya

#3 Francisco Goya

Lifespan: March 30, 1746 – April 16, 1828

Francisco Goya rose to prominence in the artistic scene through his series of tapestry cartoons and became the court painter to the Spanish Crown. He later developed a penchant for portrayals of a dark nature for which he is most known today. Known as his Black Paintings, they portray intense, haunting themes, reflective of both his fear of insanity and his bleak outlook on humanity. Goya is renowned for highly imaginative elements in his art and bold use of paint. His style became an inspiration for later generations of artists. Francisco Goya is regarded as the most important Spanish artist of late 18th and early 19th centuries; and one of the great portraitists of modern times.

Masterpiece: The Third of May 1808 (1814)

The Third of May 1808 (1814) - Francisco Goya
The Third of May 1808 (1814) – Francisco Goya

Other Famous Works:-

The Nude Maja (1800)

Saturn Devouring His Son (1823)

 

Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali

#2 Salvador Dalí

Lifespan: May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989

Salvador Dali was the preeminent artist of the Surrealism movement and he created the most famous masterpieces of Surrealist art. His contribution to Surrealist painting include the paranoiac-critical method; in which the artist attempts to tap into his subconscious through systematic irrational thought and a self-induced paranoid state. Best known for his striking and bizarre images, Dali used extensive symbolism in his work. Recurring images in his paintings include elephants with brittle legs which evoke weightlessness; ants, thought to be his symbol for decay and death; and melting watches, perhaps symbolic of non-linear human perception of time. Salvador Dali was one of the most influential figures in modern art and perhaps the most renowned 20th century painter after Pablo Picasso.

Masterpiece: The Persistence of Memory (1931)

The Persistence of Memory (1931) - Salvador Dali
The Persistence of Memory (1931) – Salvador Dali

Other Famous Works:-

Swans Reflecting Elephants (1937)

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (1936)

 

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso

#1 Pablo Picasso

Lifespan: October 25, 1881 – April 8, 1973

Demonstrating extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, Pablo Picasso went on to become the most influential artist of the 20th century. He broke the practices of the past and co-pioneered the art movement Cubism that revolutionized European painting and sculpture. His style changed over the course of his career as he experimented with different theories, techniques and ideas. Picasso was a prolific artist and, apart from creating a large volume of work in other media, he made around 1900 paintings in his long career. No artist has been as famous as him during his lifetime. Several of his paintings are among the most expensive ever sold but his most famous works are generally held by museums. Pablo Picasso is undoubtedly the most famous Spanish artist and many regard him as the greatest painter of all time.

Masterpiece: Guernica (1937)

Guernica (1937) - Pablo Picasso
Guernica (1937) – Pablo Picasso

Other Famous Works:-

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)

The Weeping Woman (1937)

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