Juan Martinez Abades is among the most famous Spanish artists in history. He was born in 1862 in Asturias and died in 1920 in Madrid. Cultural studies of European art sometimes ignore Spanish artists, despite all of the talented Spanish artists that have shaped art history. Juan Martinez Abades attended the Escuela Especial de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado in Madrid. José Grajera was one of his teachers, and perhaps the instructor that had the most profound influence on him as an artist.
In some ways, Juan Martinez Abades serves as an early example of the ways in which grants have allowed talented students to transcend difficult financial situations and pursue their dreams. Juan Martinez Abades did not have an especially stable financial situation as a young man, and the people that have been able to study art historically have often been at least somewhat socially and financially privileged, for better or for worse.
In 1887, Juan Martinez Abades was able to get the grant money that he needed in order to carry on with his art education, which may have been too expensive otherwise. The story of a talented student that gets out of a difficult situation through scholarship money is a familiar one today, but it was less common historically. There's something rewarding about seeing early examples in action, particularly after knowing how the situation ultimately turned out for the student in question.
Juan Martinez Abades's most famous paintings today are his seascapes, which are indeed vivid in their level of visual detail and energy. Juan Martinez Abades did in fact have a more varied oeuvre. History painting was popular throughout his lifetime, and he did plenty of history painting. He painted his fair share of other landscapes, much like many artists working in the late nineteenth century.
Most professional artists of the day still did portraits, and Juan Martinez Abades was no exception. Painting portraits was often the bread and butter for professional artists, since portraits had the sort of practical merit that was sometimes lacking in other types of artwork. Artists could experiment with new and exciting brush techniques as they paid the bills by doing portraits. Juan Martinez Abades did both portraits and illustration, although these art forms were arguably not his main focus as an artist.
Juan Martinez Abades belonged to one of the last generations of artists that could possibly make a living by painting portraits. Photography was very expensive throughout much of the nineteenth century, but it rapidly came down in price as the technology was perfected. At that point, people tended to get photographic portraits of themselves taken for practical purposes. Getting portraits painted became more of a niche interest. As skillful as Juan Martinez Abades's portraits were, there's a reason that his seascapes have overshadowed many of his other works.
Juan Martinez Abades was excellent at capturing the movement of waves. A lot of ocean water is covered with white foam, which many artists have a difficult time realistically replicating without disrupting the other colors of the painting. Juan Martinez Abades was able to beautifully capture every detail of the breaking waves, including the sea foam. He was able to capture the ocean in all of its different colors, including its blues, grays, and greens. People that spend a lot of time at the beach or nearby will instantly recognize his paintings as more realistic than many other seascapes. At the same time, he preserved the dramatic quality of the ocean that stirs the imagination. Juan Martinez Abades was able to make a well-known subject look original, like many great artists.