Mariano Fortuny Marsal was born in 1838 in Reus Spain to a family of artisans. He was orphaned at the age of 12 and worked with his grandfather to help support the rest of his family.
Fortuny studied with Claudio Lorenzale at the Barcelona Academy of Fine Arts for four years. In 1858 Fortuny won the Prix de Rome, a scholarship prize which allowed him to study drawing and painting in Italy for two years.
He first visited Africa in 1859 and again in 1862. In 1866 Fortuny visited Paris where he became friends with Jean Leon Gerome and Ernest Meissonier. Fortuny was married to Cecilia de Madrazo in 1868 and had one son.
While in Paris, Fortuny signed a contract with the Parisian art dealer Adolphe Goupil, giving Goupil exclusive rights to Fortunys work. Goupil mounted a show for the painter in 1870. The show consisted of Fortuny's paintings of North Africa and paintings of contemporary court life. The work was a huge success, the public and other artists were captivated by his bravura style, excellent draughtsmanship and his bold use of color.
Fortunys most important collector was the American William Hood Stewart, a Philadelphian. Stewart held the largest collection of the artists work and was responsible for introducing him to other American collectors.
Through patrons like Stewart and the respect of his peers Fortuny became a sensation. He was followed everywhere in Paris by artists and friends and while visiting in Rome could barely work because of the amount of solicitations from fellow artists, travelers and collectors.
His style is very much in the grand manner of painting, with facile loose brushwork and the ability to capture a moment in time. He was just as competent in watercolor as he was in oils. When you compare his work to other Orientalist painters the difference is powerful and immediate. Fortuny was not a mere recorder of facts. His work is infused with light, color and above all the life of his subjects.
Tragically Fortuny died from tertian ague, a type of malaria at the age of 36, November 21 1874.
ACR Publishers 1983
The Spanish School
Eduardo Dizy Caso
ACR Publishers 1997 (In French)
He is the master of us all…Ah Fortuny, I cannot rest because of you.