Categories: People

José Campeche

José Campeche y Jordán (Dec 23, 1751 – Nov 7, 1809), painter and musician. He is the first known Puerto Rican visual artist and considered by art critics as one of the best rococo artists in the Americas. Campeche y Jordán loved to use colors that referenced the landscape of Puerto Rico, as well as the social and political crème de la crème.

Campeche was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His parents were Tomás Campeche (1701–1780) and María Jordán y Marqués. His father was a freed slave born in Puerto Rico and his mother was a native of the Canary Islands. His father, a restorer and painter of religious statues, was an early influence on the young Campeche’s interest in the arts. Campeche was trained by Luis Paret y Alcázar, a Spanish court painter banished from Spain.

At an early age Campeche learned the crafts of his family. He studied Latin and philosophy at the Royal Convent of the Dominican Order in San Juan. Between 1776 and 1778 he was in contact with Spanish court painter Luis Paret y Alcázar, who had been exiled to Puerto Rico by Charles III. Campeche was a self-taught and versatile figure, pursuing music, architecture, topography, the design of coats of arms, and the making of musical instruments in addition to his work as a painter. He painted mainly religious subjects and portraits. His work, considered to be rococo because of its interest in detail and ornamentation, is dominated by the grayish-blues and pinks he learned from Paret. In 2006, the Ponce Art Museum organized an exhibition that traveled to the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts; the exhibition included Campeche’s work as well as works by Francisco Oller and Miguel Pou. Campeche’s mastery lies in his skill as a portraitist and miniaturist; he is considered to stand among the finest painters in Latin America in the late eighteenth century.

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Campeche distinguished himself with his paintings related to religious themes and of governors and other important personalities. His most famous paintings are: and his best known portraits are of:

Juan Alejo de Arizmendi
Our Lady of Bethlehem
Portrait of Brigadier don Ramón de Castro y Gutiérrez
Portrait of Governor don Miguel de Ustariz
Saint John the Baptist
The Bishop of San Francisco de la Cuerda
The Rescue of Don Ramón Power y Giralt in honor of Ramón Power y Giralt
The Sacred Family
The Virgin of the Rosary
The Vision of Saint Anthony
Virgen de la Soledad de la Victoria
Doña María de los Dolores Gutiérrez del Mazo y Pérez, ca. 1796.