Valeriano Domínguez Bécquer was son of José Domínguez Insausti and Joaquina Bastida Vargas, and was born in Seville in 1833. After his father’s death in 1841 he and his famous brother, the ace of the Spanish philology Gustavo Adolfo were left in charge of two of their uncles, Juan de Vargas and Joaquín Domínguez Bécquer. The latter was also a painter; it must be from him that Valeriano learned how to paint and got the basic knowledge of the art and under whose supervision he was working with brushes in his hand in spite of penury during all his short life. In the beginning this penury prompted him to paint small sketchy canvases that were easy to sell only because of narrow circumstances. In 1854 Gustavo Adolfo went to Madrid, and his brother followed him several years later. Meanwhile in 1861 he married Winnfred Coglan who was a daughter of an Irish seaman already pensioned off, and they had a son and a daughter, Alfredo and Julia, but probably the couple did not get on well as some time later they separated and already in 1862 they finally got divorced, in the same year Valeriano, presumably because of that, went to the capital to meet Gustavo Adolfo. There he became friend of the painter Casado del Alisal, his brother’s close friend, with the help of whom he started taking part in the reduced artistic circles of Madrid and under whose protection he managed to get his first job in the capital. Some time afterwards the two brothers decided to make a long series of journeys that kept them away from Madrid during three years and that brought them to the lands of Aragon, Castile, Navarre and Basques’ Country. Probably the most famous halt was the one made in the monastery of Veruela in 1864, and it was followed by a trip to Calatayud, Ocaña, Deva, Tarazona, Soria, Burgo de Osma and other famous Spanish cities. In 1865 Valeriano improved his financial situation due, most importantly, to his friendship with the conservative deputy González Bravo, because it was through the mediation of this man that he became a critic of novels and got a pension of 2500 pesetas per year which allowed him to study symbols, national clothes and traditions of the Spanish people; in exchange, he had to give two canvases that demonstrated the painter’s progress each year. Valeriano went again on a journey to Aragon and Castile. The period of economical and professional well-being ended with the change of the political regime and the expenditure of his pension. Meanwhile he occupied himself with the work in a newspaper and he became a famous portrait-painter in Madrid. Among the first works in the newspaper one should mention The Illustration of Madrid, edited by Eduardo Gasset and the literary director of which was Gustavo Adolfo. The first issue came out on the 12th of January 1870, and already several months later the information about the sudden death of the painter was published in the paper. A few days later, on the 27th of December 1870, Gustavo Adolfo passed away too.
The work of Valeriano Domínguez Bécquer was influenced by his admiration of the Spanish painting in general and by the works of Murillo, Velázquez and Alenza in particular, and it is especially rich in everything connected with the painting of symbols, national clothes and the traditions of the Spanish people sketched in the elaborated composition of rich colours. Besides, Valeriano developed an important technique in the work related to the woodcut; he was first inspired and guided by Bernardo Rico. It was probably nothing more than just an apprenticeship, as his works of woodcut were signed by Rico and Severini, and in many cases they were accompanied by his brother’s texts that had inspired the painter’s sketches; in other cases it was Valeriano’s drafts that impelled Gustavo Adolfo to write and to fill his brother’s sketches with literary life. The result of this activity was the collaborations of the Bécquers in the UniversalMuseumbetween 1856 and 1869 and the illustration of the Spanish version of Victor Hugo’s book The Toilers of the Sea in 1866.