About the Artist
(1731 - 1803)
José Camarón Bonanat (18 May 1731, Segorbe - 14 July 1803, Valencia) was a Spanish draftsman, painter and engraver and is considered one of the most important Valencian artists of the second half of the 18th century.
Coming from a family of artists, Camarón Bonanat was first trained in the workshop of his father, the sculptor Nicolás Camarón. He continued his studies under the direction of his uncle, the portrait miniaturist painter Eliseu Bonanat, and later briefly with the rococo painter Miguel Posadas.
From 1749 to 1753 he trained in Valencia and Madrid, enrolling in the classes at the Fine Arts Academy of San Fernando (where Corrado Giaquinto left his mark on Camarón’s style). Initially, he devoted himself to miniatures, landscapes, and copies of the Baroque masters, such as Titian, Rubens and Murillo.
On his return to Valencia in 1754, he took part in the exhibition organized by the Academy of Santa Bárbara and was named a member and professor of that institution.
He maintained his contacts with Madrid, however, and was accepted as an honorary member of the The Academy of San Fernando in 1762. In 1768 he was among the founders of the Academy of San Carlos, where he held the position of Director of Painting, vacant since the death of Cristóbal Valero in 1790. Between 1796 and 1801 he served as Director General.
He resigned, following trips to Madrid in 1798 and 1800 to treat his eyes for an unspecified ailment.
Some of his most important religious include the twenty altarpieces carried out between 1781 and 1783 for the cathedral of Valencia; a major cycle of paintings undertaken for San Francisco el Grande between 1788-1789 in Madrid; and the decorations of the church of Saint Thomas of Villanova, which was under construction in Benicàssim (a project that occupied him from the late 1760s until 1776). He also began a set of frescoes at the Segorbe Cathedral in 1800. They were unfinished when he died, and were completed by his son, Manuel, in 1806.
Despite his focus on religious works, his genre scenes in Rococo style are his best known, related to painters such as Antonio Carnicero or Luis Paret y Alcázar.
He also created a great number of drawings for engravings, or that in some cases he engraved himself. Amongst the most well known series of illustrations are the twenty-five drawings for Life, Greatness, and Death of the Glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph and the thirty-one plates that he did for a 1777 edition of Don Quixote and the corresponding illustrations for José Pellicer's deluxe edition in 1797.
He was married to Juliana Meliá in 1758, and they had five children. His sons Manuel and José Camarón y Meliá also became painters. Camarón y Meliá’s paintings were often confused with those of his father, as both signed works in the same way ( “José C.”).
Camarón passed away in Valencia July 14, 1803, and is buried in the Chapel of the Souls of the church of Saint Stephan in Valencia.
His works are in the following collections: Museo Del Prado, Madrid, Spain; Dela Mano, Madrid; the Segorbe Museum, Spain; The British Museum, London; Meadows Museum, Dallas; and numerous private collections, among others.
Biographical sources include Real Academia de la Historia; Museo Del Prado; Gallery Delamano