Eugenio Lucas Velázquez
Madrid, 1817 - Madrid, 1874
Eugenio Lucas Velázquez is, without a doubt, one of the greatest masters of 19th-century Spanish painting and is deservedly hailed as the Spanish Romantic artist who best understood the art of Goya. He became the most important and enthusiastic follower of Goya’s universe following the death of the Aragonese genius, whose essence he succeeded in assimilating to the point that it is sometimes difficult to attribute correctly works that have not been studied in great depth.
Until a few decades ago, the figure of Eugenio Lucas was steeped in ignorance and legend, and for many years this led to serious confusion about his life, his artistic personality and even his name.
Referred to since the 19th century as Eugenio Lucas Padilla or Eugenio Lucas “the Elder”, in order to distinguish him from his son, and as a native of Alcalá de Henares, he was in fact born in Madrid on 9 February 1817.
He began training as a student of the San Fernando Academy. However, dissatisfied with the cold classicism taught at the academy, he preferred to study the great geniuses of Spanish painting first-hand and often went to the Museo del Prado to copy Velázquez and, above all, Goya, whose painting would leave a lasting mark on his style and artistic personality. Lucas found in Goya’s compositions a wealth of inspiration for his imaginative painting characterised by boundless passion, fanciful visions and scenes and intense drama within the most genuine Romantic spirit, chiefly scenes of the Inquisition, witches’ Sabbaths, sorcery, pilgrimages, manolas and bullfights; all these themes were learned from Goya and are the most interesting part of his highly prolific career as an artist.
In 1850 he painted the ceiling, no longer extant, of the opera house in Madrid and Queen Isabella II later appointed him honorary court painter and a knight of the order of Charles III.
Married since 1844, Lucas Velázquez separated from his wife in 1853 and the following year went to live with Francisca Villaamil, by whom he had four children. One of them, Eugenio Lucas Villaamil (1858–1918), followed – albeit with less talent and a considerably more eclectic personality – his father’s footsteps in both profession and style, and their works are sometimes confused with each other.
He died in Madrid on 11 September 1870.
José Luis Díez