Francisco de Zurbarán, ‘Saint Serapion’, 1628, Art History 101

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About Francisco de Zurbarán

Aside from producing a number of history paintings, portraits, and still lifes, Spanish Baroque painter Francisco de Zurbarán devoted his career almost entirely to religious works. Zurbarán was a student of naturalism who favored the darkness of tenebrism and chiaroscuro; his style was most often compared to that of Caravaggio. The artist’s favorite subjects were religious figures—apostles, saints, monks, and madonnas—posed against neutral backgrounds. Zurbarán also paid particular attention to the natural effect of lighting and the details of dress. He was most applauded for his ability to combine realism with mysticism, bring a degree of accessibility to spiritual otherworldliness. His late works, which demonstrated a shift towards idealized and ethereal forms in the manner of his contemporary Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, were not well received by his large following.

Spanish, 1598-1664, Fuente de Cantos, Spain, based in Madrid, Spain