José Jiménez y Aranda was born in Seville, 7th February 1837, the son of a cabinet maker, he entered Seville’s Fine Art School at the age of fourteen, as the pupil of Antonio Cabral Bejarano (1788-1861), Manuel Barron y Carrillo (1814-1884) and Eduardo Cano de la Peña (1823-1897).
During his early years, he concentrated on lithography and portraiture, winning an honourable mention at his debut in the 1864 National Exhibition for “Orphan Girl”. In 1867 he moved to Jerez de la Frontera to undertake a commission for the Church of St. Michael and, in the same year, married.
In 1869 he returned to Seville and opened a painting studio. His work now centred around genre scenes, like “The Second-hand Dealers” and “The Romance Sellers”. In 1871 he met Mariano Fortuny y Carbo (1838-1874) in Seville, who had been working in Rome and José Aranda later moved there with his wife, brother, Manuel (b.1848) and pupil, José Garcia y Ramos (1852-1912). Four years later, he returned to Spain, having already attained considerable recognition, both in Paris and Rome. His brother, Luis Jiminez y Aranda (b.1845), who had moved to Paris in 1874, negotiated terms with dealers; Goupil and Capobianchi, to represent José in the city.
In 1878 he won a prize at the Paris World Exhibition with “The Spur-Stone” and made his debut at the Salon in 1879 with a work entitled “A Sermon in the Orange Trees Patio”, which was well reviewed in the magazine ‘L’art Contemporain’. Due to his tremendous success in Paris, his dealers persuaded him to move there in 1881, where he settled in Montparnasse. It is said that his hard work and comparatively secluded life, separated him from the cultural changes of the day. Certainly though, he maintained a great deal of respect among the many Spanish painters living in Paris.
He exhibited regularly at the Salons until 1889, when Armand Gouzien wrote of his works in ‘La Illustracion Espanola y Americana’: “In the folklore paintings of Jiménez Aranda we admire the knowledge and cleverness of the composition, the acute study of the types, the truthfulness of the attitudes, the elegance of the finish, and the perfection of the drawing (…) His pictures are masterpieces of observation, with the serenity of descriptive works”. His Paris production is dominated by the ‘frock-coat’ theme, just as that made in Rome, in which, according to Aureliano de Beruete, the most important thing “(…) even more than technical execution, (is) the clarity of the scene represented. Neither doubts nor commentary on its meaning. Nothing of figures or objects too few or too many, under the pretext of seeking picturesque contrast or a note of colour to set the effect in to relief (…)”. (Quoted by Bernardino de Pantorba in ‘Jimenez de Aranda: Biographical and Critical Essay’, Madrid 1930.
During this time his work was shown and awarded prizes constantly throughout all the major European cities. In 1890 José Aranda returned to Spain and settled in Madrid, where he won a first-class medal at the National Exhibition with “A Misfortune”. This period also saw a change of theme from the more typical genre painting, to the more naturalistic painting. This altering of focus was due largely to his brother, Luis Aranda, whose style was current with the French Schools of the period.
In 1892, after the deaths of his wife and one of his daughters, he returned to live in Seville, where he taught in the Free Academy of Fine Art and held a chair at the Official School, becoming a Director in 1897. He visited France often, to see his brother and in 1900 submitted to the Paris World Exhibition, his “Drawings from Don Quixote” and won a gold medal.
During his last years of his life, he went to Alcala de Guadaira to paint out-of-doors, creating a meeting point for local artists. He died in Seville on 6th May 1903 at the age of sixty-six.