His family had their doubts about an artistic ability, but, in 1860, when he was just sixteen, José Villegas Cordero sold one of his works at the "Exposición Sevillana" for 2,000 Reales. The family had no doubts now and he was apprenticed to the painter José María Romero López, remaining with him for two years before deciding to go to the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Sevilla, where he studied with Eduardo Cano.
In 1867, he made a trip to Madrid, where found employment in the art studio of Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz. While there, to perfect his technique, he went to the Museo del Prado, reproducing oil paintings of Velázquez. Finally, inspired by the Orientalist painter Marià Fortuny artworks, José Villegas Cordero decided to go to Morocco to see things first hand.
Near the end of 1868, with monetary help from his family, José Villegas Cordero went to Rome and spent time in the workshop of Eduardo Rosales. It was there that he created his first Costumbrista works, which proved to be very popular. He likewise started painting Orientalist scenes based on the many sketches he did in Morocco and went back there to make more sketches. The vogue for these types of oil paintings was soon at its high point, and his works were promoted by the Bosch y Hernández galleries.
After 1877, he lived in Venice and created works intended to be of interest to rich American tourists. By 1887, he was able to construct a house, which he designed himself. It soon turned into the gathering place for high society. He also began accepting a small number of students.
In 1878, the Spanish Senate commissioned him to paint a large-scale historical work on the subject Hernán Cortés' meeting with Moctezuma. The commission was canceled four years later, however it motivated him to do a series of historical paintings.
In 1896, the death of his brother Ricardo who was also an artist plunged Cordero into depression he began painting works of an ecclesiastical nature. But, two years later, he was appointed Director of the Academia Española de Bellas Artes in Rome. In 1901, in recognition of his work in Rome, he returned to Madrid after being named Director of the Museo del Prado.
Art Movement: Orientalism, Costumbrista.
Artists Influencing José Villegas Cordero: José María Romero López, Eduardo Cano, Marià Fortuny.
He Traveled To Morocco, Italy.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.