MURILLO (cont.)

Spain was not blessed as Italy was with one generation after another of artists so great that all the world knows them even at this distant day. Spain has only two unquestionably great painters that stand out as world-artists. They are Velazquez and Murillo. The former painted with unrivalled skill the world of noblemen among whom he lived. The other, not surrounded by courtiers, looked into his own pure, religious soul, and into the sky above, and gave us visions of heaven—its saints and its angels.

It is impossible to study either of these men apart from the other, or apart from the art records of Spain. To understand either, we must know the land, teeming with rich and unique cities, we must have glimpses of its history, and we must know something of the rules laid down by the church to guide the painter in his work.

The climate of Spain, except in the south, is rigorous. Elevated plains, rounded by snow-capped mountains, and swept during a large part of the year by chilling winds, are not adapted to inspire men to produce great works of art. On such a plain Madrid is situated, and chilly indeed are its nature pictures, even though they are over-arched by the bluest of skies and the most transparent of atmospheres! In Andalusia, however, things were different. Here were the olive, the orange, and the cypress, and here a sunny climate encouraged the houseless beggar no less than the aspiring artist.

 Velasquez de Silva.

In speaking of Spain as a home of painting, we must not forget, either, how very devoted the people were to their religion, for this, perhaps more than anything else, gave a peculiar character to the art of Spain. The doctrines of Luther, found no willing listeners in Spain. Indeed, the Spaniards clung all the closer to the Church when they knew that there were those who wished to change it, and so their paintings are full of sad-faced, suffering saints, and rejoicing, holy men and women who gave their lives to religion. In connection with this extreme religious zeal, the Church found it necessary to impose rules on the artists who would paint these holy personages. The Virgin, whom all profoundly reverenced, should, according to tradition, have fair hair and blue eyes. Her robes must be of pure white and azure blue, and under no circumstances should her feet be exposed. She should stand on the crescent moon with its horns pointing downward. Many other similar rules were at that time thought necessary, and they greatly limited the artists in their work, for however good a churchman a man may be, it is impossible for him to properly prescribe colors and forms for the artist, who, if he is any thing at all, is the see-er of his age. We want such things as the artist sees them. We shall see how nearly Murillo got into trouble by breaking some of these prescribed rules.

If we study the kings of Spain, Charles V. and the Philips, we shall see two things that greatly influenced the art of Spain. First, they were fond of art and spent great sums of money in buying fine paintings by Italian and Flemish masters. Both Titian and Rubens were favorites in Spain, and many of their pictures were painted expressly for Spanish monarchs. Then, these rulers were vain and had a great liking for having their portraits painted. This vanity extended to the Courtiers and even to the dwarfs, several of whom were usually connected with the court as a source of amusement. There are portraits of some of these diminutive creatures so skillfully painted that we cannot help wishing that more worthy subjects had been used. Thus the vanity of monarchs and their courtiers gave a direction to Spanish art which can be accounted for in no other way—their greatest artists are always great portrait painters. So we see that, while genius in artists is indispensable, yet is this same genius largely influenced by climate, by religious enthusiasm, and even by the whims of kings and queens.