500 Years of Spanish Paintings at San Antonio Museum of Art - Here Are 5 Highlights

June 23, 2018

This summer, the San Antonio Museum of Art brings together a remarkable selection of some of the most acclaimed Spanish paintings, conveying the richness of artistic traditions in the country. Titled 500 Years of Spanish Painting from the Museums of Madrid, this dramatic survey explores five centuries of painting in Spain, featuring world famous artists from Spain, starting with the union of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in the late fifteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century.

The display will include more than forty works of art created by painters such as El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Jusepe de Ribera, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, and Pablo Picasso. It also celebrates the artistic achievements of many other Spanish artists, such as Juan de Flandes, Luis de Morales, Luis de Madrazo y Kuntz, Antonio María Esquivel, and Ignacio Zuloaga. Works on view include portraiture, landscape from the earliest hints of naturalism to the impressionist and expressionist movements of the late nineteenth century, devotional painting, and still life.

Organized by Dr. Katherine Crawford Luber, the Kelso Director, and Dr. William Keyse Rudolph, Chief Curator and The Marie and Hugh Halff Curator of American Art, the exhibition Spain: 500 Years of Spanish Painting from the Museums of Madrid will be on view at the San Antonio Museum of Art in San Antonio, Texas, the USA from June 23rd until September 16th, 2018. In addition to showcasing some of the most famous Spanish paintings in the history of art, the museum has also conceived the Summer of Spain, a program of lecture series, film festivals and a weekly evening, Festivál de Arte, featuring flamenco lessons, poetry readings, music, and art-making, all taking place throughout the run of the exhibition.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights of this impressive show of Spanish paintings.

Featured images: Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - View of Toledo (Vista de Toledo), 1912. Oil on canvas, 27 9/16 in (70 cm) x 40 3/4 in. (103.5 cm). Fundación Museo Sorolla, Madrid; Santiago Rusiñol - Green Wall. Sa Coma, V (Muralla verde. Sa Coma, V), 1904. Oil on canvas, 37 3/8 in. (95 cm) x 41 5/16 in. (105 cm). Colección Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Ignacio Zuloaga - Young Village Bullfighters (Torerillos de pueblo), 1906. Oil on canvas, 77 9/16 in. (197 cm) x 60 5/8 in. (154 cm). Colección Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid © 2018 Estate of Ignacio Zuloaga, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. © Photographic Archives Museo Nacional; Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - The Annunciation (La Anunciación), ca. 1650. Oil on canvas, 72 1/16 in. (183 cm) x 88 9/16 in. (225 cm). Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. All images courtesy of San Antonio Museum of Art.

El Greco - The Annunciation, ca. 1596-1600

Arguably one of the most famous Spanish painters of his time, El Greco set the groundwork for many to follow. Throughout his life and career, the artist moved from the flat symbolic Byzantine icons to Renessaince painting, and then on to a predominantly conceptual kind of art he is celebrated for today. In his paintings, the artist rejected the world of mere appearance to embrace the realm of the intellect and the spirit.

The Annunciation, a Biblical episode which tells of the annunciation of the Virgin's motherhood by the Archangel Gabriel and the incarnation of Christ in Mary by the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, was a recurring subject throughout El Greco's career.

Currently part of the collection of Museo del Prado, the painting The Annunciation from ca. 1596-1600 was originally part of the altarpiece painted for the church of the Augustinian Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, commonly known as the Colegio de Doña María de Aragón after its founder. In this painting , the artist approached his subjects from a perspective steeped in a more "expressionist" spirituality.

Featured image: El Greco - The Annunciation (La Anunciación), ca. 1596-1600. Oil on canvas, 44 7/8 in. (114 cm) x 26 3/8 in. (67 cm). Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

Manuel Cabral Aguado Bejarano - Alfonsito Cabral with a Cigar, 1865

One of the best representatives of Andalusian customs within the Spanish Romanticism, Manuel Cabral Aguado Bejarano is best known for life scenes of processions and pilgrimage, always folkloric in character. His works are imbued with a great chromatic richness, executed in cold tones with a great attention to detail, which gives a great documentary value to his paintings. In addition to genre painting, he is also celebrated for his portraiture.

The painting Alfonsito Cabral with a Cigar from 1865 shows the painter's son wearing the typical costume of a bandit: a calañés hat, a black jacket and gaiters. The details of the child's clothing are rendered meticulously and he appears to be holding a cigar between his fingers, bringing a note of humor into the work. This type of portraiture was very popular among nineteenth-century bourgeois society for its elegance and coquetry.

Featured image: Manuel Cabral Aguado Bejarano - Alfonsito Cabral with a Cigar (Alfonsito Cabral con puro), 1865. Oil on canvas, 49 3/16 in. (125 cm) x 39 3/8 in. (100 cm). Museo del Romanticismo, Madrid. Photography by Pablo Linés Viñuales.

Francisco de Goya - Manuel Godoy as Prince of the Peace, 1801

A Spanish romantic painter and printmaker, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes was regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Over the course of his long career, Goya moved from lighthearted to deeply pessimistic subjects. The Spanish artist is most celebrated for his account of the atrocities of war in a series of eighty-five prints called The Disasters of War.

The portrait Manuel Godoy as Prince of the Peace from 1801 was painted to commemorate the victory in Portugal in the so-called War of the Oranges. The Chief Minister Godoy is depicted on a sofa in a reclining posture, while Portuguese banners, which were awarded to him when he was made Generalissimo of land and sea, are featured in the foreground of this elaborate and unusual composition.

Featured image: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes - Manuel Godoy as Prince of the Peace (Manuel Godoy como principe de la Paz), 1801. Oil on canvas, 38 3/16 in. (97 cm) x 28 3/4 in. (73 cm). Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid.

Francisco de Zurbaran - Saint Isabel of Portugal, ca. 1635

A Baroque painter nicknamed "the Spanish Caravaggio", Francisco de Zurbarán was a master of naturalistic style. The majority of his paintings followed religious themes, such as renderings of monks, nuns, and martyrs. His best work is both very direct and intensely spiritual.

The work Saint Isabel of Portugal from ca. 1635 shows the daughter of Peter III "the Great" and grand-daughter of James I "the Conqueror" who married King Dinis of Portugal in 1293 and became queen of Spain. Saint Isabel of Portugal gave much of the riches to the poor, which she concealed among the folds of her robes as her despotic husband forbid her to give alms. The work is rendered with technical perfection, with a powerful light from the left intensely highlighting the subjects' presence.

Featured image: Francisco de Zurbarán - Saint Isabel of Portugal, ca. 1635. Oil on canvas, 72 7/16 in. (184 cm) x 38 9/16 in. (98 cm). © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Alonso Sanchez Coello - The Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, 1579

Combining Flemish influence with the techniques of Venice, the Spanish artist Alonso Sánchez Coello was one of the most interesting court portrait painters of the Spanish Renaissance. The favorite portrait painter of King Philip II, he introduced a distinctly Spanish character into portrait paintings, which endured until Velázquez came to the court in the 1620s.

The work The Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia from 1579 shows Infanta, Philip II's daughter at the age of thirteen. She is depicted standing with a distant and elegant posture, wearing a white and gold dress with lace collar and cuffs, a feather headdress and a great profusion of jewelry. A handkerchief she is holding in her left hand was customary in female portraits in this time in history.

The work highlights the Spanish painter's remarkable ability to render the details of jewels and textiles.

Featured image: Alonso Sánchez Coello - The Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, 1579. Oil on canvas, 45 11/16 in. (116 cm) x 40 3/16 in. (102 cm). © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.