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Luis Meléndez

1716 - 1780

Luis Meléndez is regarded as the leading Spanish still-life painter of the 18th century. He was one of a family of painters, but his promising career in figure painting ran aground after his father's dispute with the Academy in Madrid. He petitioned the King on two occasions to become a court painter, but failed to gain an official post, and died in poverty.

Luis Egidio Meléndez de Rivera Durazo y Santo Padre was born in the Spanish dominion of Naples; his family moved to Spain soon after. His father, uncle, brother and two sisters were all painters. His father, Francisco, was instrumental in founding the Royal Academy in Madrid in 1744, and his son's self portrait of 1746 shows him as a promising student there. Following a dispute, both father and son were expelled from the Academy and turned to miniature painting in the 1750s.

The series of about 100 still lifes for which Luis Meléndez is remembered dates from the last twenty years of his life. Often planned in pairs, they range from large compositions, which sometimes incorporate landscape settings as in Flemish and Neapolitan still lifes, to smaller and more intense paintings, usually of a vertical format, that are more characteristically Spanish.