LUCAS VELÁZQUEZ, Eugenio
(b. 1824, Alcalé de Henares, d. 1870, Madrid)

The Defence of Saragossa

1850-55
Oil on canvas, 73 x 106 cm
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne

Spanish painter of Romanticism. Long known as Eugenio Lucas y Padilla, research has shown that his real surname was Lucas Velázquez. He became a painter late in his career, still listing 'cabinetmaker' as his profession in 1844; by the mid-1850s he was well-established and finding success in his new career as painter. Lucas Velázquez was influenced by Goya, particularly in terms of colour and vigorous brushwork, and is considered a precursor to Impressionism. He may have also been influenced by Delacroix, whom he may have met in Paris, and he apparently knew, and perhaps influenced, Manet.

Although he trained at the Madrid Academy, he was more or less self-taught and his work remained totally unacademic. Isolated from the general art scene, he concentrated in his early oeuvre on impressions of Spanish life. Padilla attracted public attention with dramatically agitated figure paintings. Largely scenes drawn from the revolution, the Inquisition, and bullfighting, these were in part copies, in part free reinterpretations of works by Goya and Velázquez.

From June 1808 to 11 February 1809, the Spanish city of Saragossa under General Jose de Palafox y Melzi mounted heroic resistance to a siege by Napoleon's troops, surrendering only after over half of its inhabitants and defenders had fallen. Scenes from this bloody struggle were depicted in many pictures and leaflets of the day as well as in countless works later in the nineteenth century.