Francisco Pradilla Ortiz
Villanueva de Gallego, 1848 - Madrid, 1925
Born in Villanueva de Gállego on 24 June 1848, Francisco Pradilla is deservedly held to be one of the foremost Spanish painters of the last quarter of the 19th century, in addition to the last great master of history painting of the century.
After being taught in Zaragoza by the painter and set designer Mariano Pescador – from whom he learned the characteristic spectacular appearance his history paintings have – and studying for a few years at the Special School of Painting, Sculpture and Engraving in Madrid, in 1874 he went to Rome on a travel grant, remaining there for three years.
There he painted his great masterpiece, Doña Juana la Loca (“Queen Joan the Mad”), now in the Museo Nacional del Prado; he would be obsessed by this subject throughout his life and repeated it in many variants. Extremely famous from the time it was executed, it earned him the medal of honour at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts of 1878 and immediately brought him fame and prestige in both Madrid and France and the rest of Europe, the medal of honour at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878, the title of knight of the French Legion of Honour and the medal of honour at the Vienna Universal Exhibition of 1882.
Another of his large history paintings that became equally famous is La Rendición de Granada (“The Surrender of Granada”), which was commissioned in 1882 by the Spanish senate and earned Pradilla the grand cross of the order of Isabella the Catholic. The previous year he was elected a member of the San Fernando Academy and appointed as director of the Spanish School in Rome. He was also a member of the French Institute, a corresponding member of the Society of French Artists and a member of the Paris academy. In Madrid he was appointed director of the Museo del Prado after Palmaroli died in 1896.
Owing to the enormous prestige he enjoyed during his lifetime, Pradilla was sought after by members of Madrid’s high society to decorate their mansions and paint their portraits, as well as executing a large number of genre scenes and pictures of common folk and landscapes.
He died in Madrid on 1 November 1921.
José Luis Díez