Daniel Urrabieta Vierge 1851-1904

Armand Cabrera

Daniel Urrabieta Vierge was born in Madrid, Spain on March 5, 1851. His Father Vincent was also a professional artist and he encouraged Daniel to draw from the time he was three. Vierge was rarely without his drawing tools after that age. At thirteen he was entered into the Academy in Madrid and studied under Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz, Federico Madrazo and José Villegas Cordero. Vierge received his first assignment when he was sixteen illustrating  Madrid la Nuit.

With money from his work he decided to move to Paris to study painting but the outbreak of the Franco Prussian War kept him from entering the academies there. Instead he chronicled the war and sold the illustrations to Le Monde Illustre and other periodicals. By the age of 21 he was a highly sought after illustrator of books and magazines.

Vierge is considered the father of modern illustration. He worked to incorporate his illustrations into the text and  he helped develop a process to copy the art directly to a plate for printing avoiding the translation of a wood engraver.  This produced a line quality unique in the publishing world a the time. Vierge worked in Guache, pen and pencil. His ink work was done with a glass pen on Bristol Board. His working method was to always sketch from life, quick vignettes of everything around him. These sketchbook illustrations would be used as the basis for his professional work. He rarely used models for assignments having so much information collected over the years. His facile handling and expressive, fliud line work kept him one of the most sought after illustrators of his day.
 His largest assignment was Michelet’s History of France containing 1000 drawings in  26 volumes. Vierges best known work was to be Pablo De Segovia. Vierge would create 110 illustrations for the book. After completing the first 90 illustrations he had a stroke which left him paralyzed on the right side of his body, unable to draw and with short term memory loss; he was 30 years old.
Vierge spent almost ten years retraining his left hand to draw as well as he could with his right. The second edition of Pablo De Segovia had all 110 illustrations; the last twenty finished by Vierge left handed; they are indistinguishable from his earlier work. He had to have someone repeat the passages to him over and over again while he drew them because of his memory loss which eventually was cured.
In 1889 he was awarded a gold Medal at the Paris Exhibition for his work on Pablo De Segovia. His last work was the four volume set of Don Quixote, creating 75 illustrations for Cervantes Classic. Vierge never regained the use of his right hand. Daniel Vierge died at Boulogne-sur-Seine in May 1904 at the age of 53.
Google books has free complete copies of some of the books illustrated by Vierge including On the Trail of Don Quixote and Don Quixote. The books are in .pdf format complete with all of the illustration albeit in slightly fuzzy scans.
Daniel Urrabieta Vierge in the collection of the Hispanic Society of America
Elizabeth du Gué Trapier
New York, 1936
Pablo De Segovia the Spanish Sharper
Fransico De Quevedo
London 1892
Work is the greatest fun in the whole world it is the only fun I want to  have.
~Daniel Vierge

11 thoughts on “Daniel Urrabieta Vierge 1851-1904

  1. A glass pen? I have never heard of such!
    I still have my pens, crow quills, speedballs and nibs. I was just playing with them. As a teenager, I enjoyed useing them from cartooning to portraits. Landscapes too!

  2. Jonin,

    It is unfortunate Vierge is not well known in this country. Many comic book artists and illustrators have been influenced by him directly or indirectly.

  3. Armand! I just got back from the art store and I saw glass pens! I have never heard of them. I will probably have one before to long.
    Are they special or what?

  4. People who prepare Google books or Gutenberg files have no idea of what quality is need to do justice to illustrations.

    For line work as fine as Vierge's, you need to scan at 1200 dpi. Saved as grayscale GIFs (JPEG is too blurry for fine line work), each drawing could be up to 20 MegaBytes.

    I have an 1892 printing of the English language version of "Pablo", and the printing has finer lines than you could easily get with any modern printing process.

  5. Don,

    I have a copy of Pablo too. Thats why I mentioned the fuzziness in the free online versions; still the Quixote book goes for upward of a thousand if you can find a copy.

  6. Armand, thanks for talking about the pen and ink masters. We don't get to see enough of their work nowadays. The pictures you shared are wonderful, even if a bit fuzzy. I can see now why Vierge was such an inspiration to E.A. Abbey and J.C. Coll, two other pen-and-ink greats.

    As you say, pen and ink leaves no room for second thoughts.

  7. Great piece Armand – I have to admit I was unfamiliar with him. Very interesting that he is considered the father of modern illustration and I can see why – especially if he was the first to work with vignettes to work with the text. Thanks for the eye-opener!

  8. I was just reading The Brandywine Tradition by Henry Pitz and it had mentioned Vierge as an influence on Pyle. I had never heard of him, thank you for sharing this and allowing me to find this great info 12 years later!

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