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Artists Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo Photo

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Spanish Painter

Movement: The Baroque

Born: c. December 31, 1617 - Seville, Spain

Died: April 3, 1682 - Seville, Spain

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo Timeline


"[Murillo is a] famous painter who is the admiration of Europe; only in Spain, his land, is he unknown and less esteeed."
Entry confirming Murillo's membership in the Franciscan Third Order
"Today, outside of Spain, a picture by Murillo is esteemed more than one by Titian or Van Dyck."
Antonio Palomino
"Here hangs his portrait (by his own hand). It is the key to all his works.... It is the physical and intellectual power still wielded by this force of nature... These slightly retracted nostrils, these flashing eyes under the splendid, wrathfully arching eyebrows, this whole face, is it not an arsenal of passions?"
Jacob Burkhardt
"The eye can't follow any line in [Murillo's] pictures, any more than it can in nature."
French visitor to Madrid, 1831
"Murillo seems to me in the expression of the Madonna to surpass Raphael; there is something so pure and innocent that one only finds in [Raphael's] Madonna in Dresden."
Hans Christian Anderson
"Do not call this the painting of nature: it is mere delight in foulness."
John Ruskin
"[Murillo was] ... one of the great devotional artists of all time."
Jonathan Brown
"Murillo is in many ways the opposite of what people think. The art of the previous generation - of artists such as Zurbarán, Ribera and the early Velázquez - is dark and austere. It's about punishment and penitence. Murillo's approach is lighter and more elegant. He wants to make the Bible stories accessible to the ordinary viewer. What we've come to think of as sentimentality, is Murillo drawing us in by stressing the human element."
Xavier Bray
"[Murillo] brings the Bible stories alive not through symbols, but through human empathy."
Xavier Bray

"Murillo was favored by Heaven not only in the eminence of his ability but also in his natural endowments; he had a good figure and an amiable disposition and was humble and modest so that he did not disdain to accept correction from anyone."

Antonio Palomino


In Baroque Spain, artists were more than painters or sculptors, in the eyes of the faithful, they had the power to make the sacred real; and in Seville, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was known as the greatest religious painter of his age. He developed a lush, illusionistic, yet accessible style that combined his grasp of the sensual world with religious conviction and respect for narrative clarity. So, whether his subject was sacred or secular, he painted convincing human beings with recognizable emotions. Murillo's pictures of street children captured their raw energy and brio, while his religious paintings held a mirror up to people and encouraged them to recognise their best qualities, so that they might strive for them in daily life. Like any good artist, he was a storyteller, and like any good storyteller, he painted to show, not tell. His elegant images of the Immaculate Conception, and his reinterpretations of the Virgin, Christ, and saints as beautiful children, blended realism and otherworldliness to immensely popular effect. Even into the 19th century, his paintings of children remained highly prized by English and French collectors, and inspired works by Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Jean-Baptiste Greuze.

Key Ideas

Murillo achieved a balance between reality and spirituality in his religious paintings by combining the sculptural formalism and clarity of traditional Spanish art with the technical innovations of Venetian and Flemish art.
Murillo painted Christ, the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist as beautiful children to inspire empathy and by extension, charity. Such an emotional approach to religious painting was unprecedented in Spanish art, and with the exception of Murillo's many followers, does not reappear until the late 18th century, in the work of Francisco Goya.
Murillo enlivened and simplified traditional subject matter - religious or otherwise - by using local models, and replacing attributes with dramatic poses and gestures, painting stories and lessons in a visual language ordinary people could comprehend.
Murillo was fascinated by boundaries and challenged the idea that a viewer's engagement with a painting stops at its surface. He used foreshortening, shallow foregrounds, and trompe l'oeil details to literally "fool the eye" and draw viewers deeper into his images.


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo Photo


In December 1617, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was born in Seville, where he would live and work his entire life. Throughout his childhood, Seville remained the foremost city in Spain, equal in power and population to Venice, Amsterdam, or even Madrid. Seville had long held the monopoly on trade with the New World, and despite Spain's near constant wars with France and the Low Countries, the city remained prosperous well into the 1630s. Later, when Murillo established his career, Seville's population and standard of living decreased, while its churches and religious fraternities increased. Eventually, his identity became integrated so strongly with religion that his pictures arguably shaped Baroque Seville as much as the city moulded his career.

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Bartolomé Esteban Murillo Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Interactive chart with Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Francisco Zurbarán
Diego VelazquezDiego Velazquez
Peter Paul RubensPeter Paul Rubens
Anthony Van Dyck
Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt van Rijn

Personal Contacts

Justino de Neve
Miguel de Mañera
Nicolás Omazur


The BaroqueThe Baroque
The Venetian SchoolThe Venetian School
Flemish School

Influences on Artist
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Years Worked: c. 1639 - 1682
Influenced by Artist


Francisco Meneses Osorio
Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio
Joshua ReynoldsJoshua Reynolds
Thomas GainsboroughThomas Gainsborough
Jean-Baptiste Greuze

Personal Contacts


Seville School
The RococoThe Rococo

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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