Velázquez's development as an artist was uncommonly steady. His first forms were monumental and powerful, enveloped in a strong chiaroscuro. The artist slowly evolved an extraordinarily subtle art based on exquisite color values, of which he remains the unrivaled master. His cool palette and consummate use of silver tones in conjunction with brilliant color sometimes recall El Greco. In spirit, however, Velázquez is far removed from the art of El Greco due to his worldliness and compassion for all levels of humanity. He imbued all human beings from dwarfs to kings with a sense of dignity and individual worth.
Velázquez had many followers. His son-in-law Mazo imitated his portrait style so successfully that many works now thought to be his were formerly attributed to Velázquez. But in his great works Velázquez has never been successfully imitated. His mature works are very few—some say not more than 100. He was obliged to produce replicas of many of his court portraits. Some of these were executed by Mazo, and all are inferior to the originals. Velázquez can be fully appreciated only in Madrid, although more or less authentic examples of his work are to be seen in many galleries in Europe and the United States.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.