Born in Seville, where Murillo was baptised Juan Bartolomé Esteban on January 1618. It has been said that Murillo was born and baptised on the same day, but it was customary to baptise on the day after birth. Murillo was his mother’s name, Esteban his father’s. Murillo studied in Seville c.1633-8 with Juan del Castillo. In 1645 he married Beatriz Cabrera (d. 1663) by whom he had nine children.
Murillo's first decorative cycle, eleven paintings for the claustro chico in the monastery of S. Francisco, Seville, was completed in 1646, and his first paintings for Seville Cathedral were delivered in 1655.
Between April and December 1658 Murillo visited Madrid, where his townsmen Velázquez, Zurbarán and Cano were then working. In 1660 he was a co-founder of the Seville Academy, but his interest in it was not sustained.
In 1662 Murillo was made a Tertiary of the Franciscan Order. His greatest activity occurred in the decade 1662 when Murillo completed commissions for the Church of S. Maria la Blanca, the Capuchin Church (see The Virgin and Child with Saints), the Hospital de la Caridad and the Cathedral, all in Seville.
He died in Seville on 3 April 1682 after a fall while painting the large Marriage of S. Catherine for the high altar of the Capuchin Church in Cáidiz.
Though Murillo hardly ever left Seville Murillo paintings reflect an admiration for sixteenth-century Venetian painting, and for the great seventeenth-century masters, particularly the Flemish and Genoese. The international merchant communities in Seville facilitated this awareness. The development of Murillo’s style was divided into three phases,the frío, cálido and vaporoso. Murillo probably kept a small studio practice; paintings attributed to his assistants Juan Simon Gutiérrez and Francisco Meneses Osorio are separately catalogued.