(b Fuente de Cantos, Spain, 1598; d Madrid, 1664) Spanish painter. One of the greatest masters of the Sevillian School, Francisco de Zurbarán is best known for his often startlingly powerful and realistic expression of religious subject matter and his influential but much rarer treatment of still life. After training in the studio of Pedro Díaz de Villanueva in Seville, Zurbarán left the city but was back in 1626 to work on a series of paintings for the Monastery of San Pablo El Real. From this commission comes his first known dated painting, a Crucifixion of 1627 (Chicago, Art Institute), that exhibits a strikingly Caravaggesque realism in the rendition of the figure; the work brought him immediate fame and led to numerous commissions from religious orders.
As Spain experienced years of great financial difficulty in the decade 1640-50, there were fewer artistic commissions. From this period, Zurbarán's style gradually changed to incorporate a more diffuse effect of light with a paler palette and less chiaroscuro. (Credit: Christie's, London, Old Master Pictures, July 7, 2004, lot 75)