Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (June 6, 1599 – August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656).
My favorite painting by Diego Velázquez is The Waterseller of Seville:
The Waterseller of Seville, 1618-1622, Oil on canvas. Image source: Wikipedia, public domain.
Wikipedia has detailed reviews of most of his more popular paintings in Selected works.
Spain's greatest painter was also one of the supreme artists of all time. A master of technique, highly individual in style, Diego Velasquez may have had a greater influence on European art than any other painter.
When he was 24 he painted a portrait of Philip IV, who became his patron.
The artist made two visits to Italy. On his first, in 1629, he copied masterpieces in Venice and Rome. He returned to Italy 20 years later and bought many paintings--by Titian, Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese--and statuary for the king's collection.
Except for these journeys Velasquez lived in Madrid as court painter.
Duties of Velasquez' royal offices also occupied his time. He was eventually made marshal of the royal household, and as such he was responsible for the royal quarters and for planning ceremonies.
In 1660 Velasquez had charge of his last and greatest ceremony--the wedding of the Infanta Maria Theresa to Louis XIV of France. This was a most elaborate affair. Worn out from these labors, Velasquez contracted a fever from which he died on August 6.
Velasquez was called the "noblest and most commanding man among the artists of his country." He was a master realist, and no painter has surpassed him in the ability to seize essential features and fix them on canvas with a few broad, sure strokes. "His men and women seem to breathe," it has been said; "his horses are full of action and his dogs of life."
Because of Velasquez' great skill in merging color, light, space, rhythm of line, and mass in such a way that all have equal value, he was known as "the painter's painter."
Diego Velázquez. Olga's Gallery.
Velázquez (or Velásquez), Diego. WebMuseum.