Born in San Juan, Francisco Oller (1833–1917) grew up in the wealthy creole bourgeoisie of Puerto Rico. His talent was evident from an early age, and in 1851, he enrolled in the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid where he became captivated by the paintings of Velázquez. On a second visit to Europe in 1863, he established a close friendship with Camille Pissarro, a fellow islander born in St. Thomas, and also became acquainted with the teachings of Gustave Courbet. Developing relationships with progressive painters such as these encouraged Oller to master the technical properties of Impressionism, such as light and atmosphere. When he returned to San Juan, he founded a drawing school, married, and was appointed Painter-in-Ordinary to the King of Spain. However, he soon returned to Europe where he exhibited in the fourth Salon des Refusés, and had a very successful exhibition at the Palace of La Correspondencia de España, which would be the highlight of his career. By 1896, Oller made his final return home, where he was discouraged by how inaccessible contemporary art was in Puerto Rico. From 1902 to 1904, he taught at the Normal School where he delivered this speech, which may have caused the termination of his teaching appointment on account of his controversial support for the Realist school. Oller was a devoted teacher; his first known pupil was Paul Cézanne, and he opened a number of schools in Puerto Rico. He played a fundamental role in European Impressionism, and is credited with introducing the style to Spain, as well as advocating for changes in the art of his native country. He was the first painter to depict the reality of Puerto Rico, which laid the foundation for a meaningful national art.