|Zurbarán, Francisco de (1598-1664), Spanish painter of saints and churchmen. His use of sharply defined, often brilliant colors, minute detail, three-dimensional modeling of figures, and the shadowed light that brightly illuminates his subjects all give his paintings a solidity and dignity evocative of monastic life. At its best, his work fuses two dominant tendencies in Spanish art: realism and mysticism.
Zurbarán was born of Basque ancestry in Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz Province, Spain. He was apprenticed to a minor Spanish painter in Seville, Spain, but appears to have been influenced early in his career by Italian artist Michelangelo. In 1617 he went to work in Llerena, Spain, and in 1629, at the invitation of the town council, he settled in Seville. Zurbarán spent the next 30 years there, with the exception of the two years, 1634 to 1635, which he spent in Madrid, Spain, working for the royal court. Zurbarán left Seville in 1658, after his reputation declined there. He died in Madrid.
Zurbarán's earliest known work, painted when he was 18 years old, is Immaculate Conception (private collection, Bilbao, Spain). Other notable early works include Crucifixion (1627-1629, Museum of Fine Arts, Seville); several large scenes of the life of Saint Peter Nolasco, the founder of the religious order of the Mercedarians, originally done for a convent in Seville (1628-1629, several at the Prado, Madrid); The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas (1631, Museum of Fine Arts, Seville); and Still Life with Oranges (1633, Contini-Bonacossi Collection, Florence, Italy). The St. Thomas is considered his masterpiece and one of the great works of Spanish art.1