the painter of the painters


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was “the painter of the painters”, declared Édouard Manet – but he was much more than that. The days when artists played a leading role in national or international politics are long gone (what does this say about the cliquey introspection of today’s art world?), but while Velázquez’s work is justly celebrated for its aesthetic achievements, far less well known is the role he played in articulating the political imperatives of his masters.

The work has become divorced from its poli tical context largely because it is so seductive as art. The breathtaking ease of the brushwork, the huge but seemingly effortless restraint with which Velázquez controlled his colour palette and pictorial composition, the sheer facility of draughtsmanship: all are amply demonstrated at a forthcoming exhibition at the National Gallery in London – amazingly, the first ever monograph show in the UK of Velázquez’s work.

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