Art: Spain's Conquistador

Velazquez's paintings raised Iberian art to the level of 17th century Europe's greatest masters

The theology of painting" is how one of Diego de Velazquez's 17th century admirers described his work. What did he mean? That the work was true; that it represented a truth about nature, as theology did about God; that this truth was conclusive, beyond further argument. In a culture ruled by King and church, where the arts were easily accused of frivolity and sensuality, this was a colossal claim. Very rarely, an artist gets to transform the conditions of his culture--not just add to them or jog their evolution, but alter them decisively. This is what Picasso did for America and...

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