Jose María Romero y López
There is little accurate information about the life of this Romantic painter. He is assumed to have been born in Seville, as the earliest records of his life locate him there, first as a participant in an academic competition of 1840, then as an assistant instructor of drawing at the School of Fine Arts in 1841 and seven years later as the person in charge of the class on part drawing at the same institution. Prominent among his clientele during this initial period were the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, for whom he produced one of his first large compositions entitled El bautizo de la Infanta María Isabel de Orleans y Borbón (“The Baptism of the Infanta María Isabel of Orleans and Bourbon”) in 1849. Shortly after completing this commission, in 1850 he was admitted as a full member of the Santa Isabel de Hungría Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Seville and remained in that city as a lecturer in painting until 1866. He pursued a long career there painting portraits of members of the bourgeoisie and, following the deaths of Antonio María Esquivel (1806–1857) and José Gutiérrez de la Vega (1791–1865), he became the foremost practitioner of Romantic painting in the Andalusian capital in the final years of Isabella II’s reign. In 1866 he moved from Seville to Cadiz, where he continued to pursue his teaching and artistic career until 1874. In addition to portraits, in that city he also painted compositional works such as La imposición de la casulla de san Ildefonso (“The Bestowal of the Chasuble on St Ildefonsus”) for the cathedral.
After returning briefly to Seville – where in 1877 he produced two canvases to commemorate the first official visit paid by Alfonso XII to the city – he settled in Madrid in March 1879. Seeking to attract new clients, he advertised himself as a painter of portraits “for illustrious persons”, making the most of his status as honorary court painter. At the court he received a few commissions for portraits and religious paintings, but he failed to enjoy achieve firm success. In view of this, in 1887 he sought refuge in Malaga, where he again taught colour and composition at the city’s academy until being replaced in 1893 owing to his advanced age.
In parallel to his known career as a portraitist, he produced a large number of pleasant genre scenes, some amorous and others openly erotic. Set in what are often recognisable urban locations or in descriptive interiors of the type used in his portraits, they were aimed at a bourgeois market and are a faithful reflection of the amorous practices of the Romantic period in Spain.
Carlos G. Navarro