Innovators and pioneers in their technique, many Spanish artists have been references in universal art. These are some of the most important, both in Spain and in the world.

There is no doubt that Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) was one of the greatest artists in the world, the most outstanding of the Baroque and the Spanish Golden Age. However, this recognition did not happen until two centuries later, although it has not stopped growing since then. The Sevillian, from a wealthy family, at the age of 24 was appointed painter to King Philip IV of Spain, his patron and protector. At age 28 he was appointed chamber painter, the highest rank, which gave him privileged access to palace life, portraying members of the royal family and influential figures of the time. He had a fundamental role as a portrait painter and in the decoration of royal buildings. The relationship of trust between Velázquez and Philip IV gave him a lot of artistic freedom, and in his last stage he showed mastery in the management of light. In Las Meninas (1656) two new elements appear: the artist's self-portrait within the work, and the use of perspective thanks to the different planes. Much of Velázquez's production is considered a masterpiece, including the famous Venus in the Mirror (1647).

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) was another Sevillian painter of the Golden Age who began to receive important commissions after his marriage to Beatriz Cabrera, niece of Tomás Villalobos, a relative of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. For this reason, his first major commissions were for convents and churches. Throughout his life, he combined Catholic themes with other more traditional themes, such as the series of beggar children and humble families, highlighting the chiaroscuro technique that defines his style.

For his part, the Aragonese Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) had many parallels with Velázquez in some of his work, such as The Naked Maja (1800) and The Dressed Maja (1805), reinterpretations of the classic portrait of Venus, and the group portrait The Family of Charles IV (1800), which has great similarities to Las Meninas, including his own self-portrait. Goya came from a middle-class family, received an early artistic education and moved to Madrid. In 1775, he was appointed chamber painter by King Charles III and, like Velázquez, this gave him access to the royal family and influential figures. Goya achieved fame and prestige during his lifetime for his originality and technical skills. With his works he made social and political criticism and his themes connect with both the late baroque and Spanish romanticism.

After the great artists who emerged during the Baroque and pre-Romanticism, it will not be until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when a new wave of pictorial talents enter the scene in Spain, such as Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923). Representative of impressionism and post-impressionism, the Valencian captured coastal landscapes with an elegant and luminous style. No less than almost 3,000 paintings and 20,000 drawings and notes are part of a work, as prolific as it is internationally valued.

Ramón Casas (1866 -1932) from Barcelona was a painter and graphic designer whose father had made a fortune in Cuba, which favored his connections with the Catalan bourgeoisie, portraying intellectuals, artists, politicians and personalities of high society. Casas was a magnificent illustrator who, with his work, helped establish the aesthetic foundations of Catalan modernism – a style to which the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí also belongs. Ramón Casas met with other artists of the time in a famous fashionable bar that imitated the Parisians, Els Quatre Gats.

A young Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) also attended the Els Quatre Gats meetings. The painter from Malaga went through different styles in his long artistic career, although he is especially associated with Cubism. From a bourgeois family, he had a precocious talent: he painted his first painting, The Yellow Picador, at the age of 8. His father won a professorship at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts, where Pablo was admitted when he was only 14 years old. During his time in Barcelona he was influenced by Catalan modernism and impressionism. At the age of 30 he moved to Paris, where he came into contact with the circle of French surrealists led by André Breton. There he was arrested and interrogated for the theft of the Mona Lisa, which had taken place a few months earlier. Picasso always positioned himself as a pacifist and communist, as demonstrated by one of his most impressive works, Guernica (1937), an almost hypnotic painting that, in its large dimensions, reflects the horror of war.

Picasso would maintain half a century of friendship with Joan Miró (1893-1983), whom he met in Paris in 1920. An abstract and multifaceted artist – also a sculptor and engraver – Miró's work recreates elements of childhood and Catalan culture. He quickly showed his intention to separate himself from the predominant artistic schools to follow his own creative path, creating a dreamlike and symbolic universe.

A contemporary of both was one of the most relevant painters of the Generation of '27, the Galician Maruja Mallo (1902-1995). Daughter of a customs official and a fervent republican, Mallo had friendly and loving relationships with the most relevant artists of the time, such as Alberti and Miguel Hernández. In addition, she worked in literary publications, was a teacher and exhibited her work in several countries. Ortega y Gasset organized her first exhibition at the headquarters of La Revista de Occidente in 1928. She was exiled for 25 years in Argentina, where she would also achieve success, working in avant-garde magazines and continuing with her exhibitions in Brazil, Paris and New York. Her colorful portraits are considered precursors of American pop art.

The Catalan Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) would refer to her, with whom he shared her surrealist style, as "half angel, half shellfish." Dalí, who came from a bourgeois family, was a cosmopolitan and innovative artist, whose work was influenced by scientific advances, as seen in Atomic Leda. His unique style, with great technical mastery, made him a picturesque artist who knew how to use marketing like no one else. In 1982, King Juan Carlos I created for him the title of Marquis of Dalí of Púbol.

Remedios Varo (1908-1963), for her part, was an artist from Girona who went into exile in Mexico, where she developed most of her artistic and literary career, linked to esotericism, mysticism and scientific iconography, with an aesthetic result in the line of surrealism. His work is not as well known in Spain as in Latin American countries, where it is an object of study due to the richness of its symbolism.