The altars range from early works such as a retablo from Enviny in northeastern Spain, signed and dated in 1490 by Pere Espalargues, to more sophisticated works in the International Gothic style such as the panel of The Ascension (ca. 1408) by the Valencian master Miguel Alcañiz, from the alterpiece of Saints Vincent and Giles from a chapel in the Hospital of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem in Valencia. Among the numerous 15th-century altar panels in the collection, a pair of anonymous works from the same altar merit special notice for their quality, Saint Jerome (ca. 1475-1500) and Saint Michael (ca. 1475-1500).
In the next century, this style would be supplanted by the heightened naturalism associated with Renaissance painting. For example, Luis de Morales integrated Leonardo da Vinci’s hazy sfumato effects into his devotional paintings Ecce Homo (ca. 1560-1570), The Virgin with the Yarn Winder (ca. 1560-1570), and The Holy Family with Horoscope of Christ (1562-1569). Artists born in those countries which formed part of the Spanish empire in Europe also played a significant role in developing Spanish Renaissance art. Antonis Mor’s Portrait of the Duke of Alba (1549) established a sober portrait style that dominated Spanish art until the 18th-century. Also noteworthy are the anonymous early portrait miniature of Juana de Austria (ca. 1550-1552), the sister of Philip II; and The Family of Philip II of Spain (ca. 1583-1585). Also worth noting from this period is a complete small retablo from Cuenca by Martín Gómez the Elder, Altarpiece of the Two Sain Johns (ca. 1550).
During the 16th century, the Spanish court and church attracted artists from outside of the Iberian Peninsula. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Italian-trained Greek, Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. The Society possesses autograph works from every period of his career, as well as paintings by his son, Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli (1578-1631). El Greco’s Holy Family, from circa 1585, evokes the deep spirituality El Greco brought to Counter-Reformation religious imagery at a time of reform and renewal in the Catholic Church. Other works by El Greco include Pietá (ca. 1575), the rare miniature on cardboard Portrait of a Man (ca. 1585-1590), Saint Jerome as a Penitent (ca. 1600), Saint Luke (ca. 1600-1605), and Saint Francis (ca. 1600-1605).
The Spanish Golden Age (ca. 1550-1700), witnessed a flourishing of Spanish artists including masters such as Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Jusepe de Ribera. The Hispanic Society is fortunate to have masterpieces by all of them. Of these figures, none is more celebrated than Diego Velázquez, whose genius as a portraitist is revealed in the Hispanic Society’s three canvases. His life-sized Portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares (ca. 1625-26), with its dynamic composition and political symbols is juxtaposed with the charmingly intimate Portrait of a Little Girl (ca. 1638-1644), which the artist kept in his personal collection. From his second trip to Italy there is the small portrait of Camillo Astalli, Known as Cardinal Pamphili (1650-1651). Works by Velázquez’s illustrious Sevillian contemporaries include Saint Lucy (ca. 1630) and Saint Rufina (ca. 1635) by Francisco de Zurbarán; The Prodigal Son (ca. 1656-1665) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo; and Via Crucis (1661) by Juan de Valdés Leal.
The collection is notably famous for works by other Golden Age masters, such as the Valencian-born tenebrist artist active in Naples, Jusepe de Ribera, Saint Paul (1632); Alonso Cano, Portrait of an Ecclesiastic (ca. 1625-1630); Pedro Núñez del Valle, Saint Cecilia (1638); Antonio de Pereda, Saint Anthony of Padua and the Christ Child (1655); Antonio del Castillo y Saavedra, Adoration of the Shepherds (ca. 1655-1660); Luca Giordano, Ecstasy of Saint Mary Magdalene (ca. 1660-1665); Mateo Cerezo, the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (ca. 1660-1665); Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante, The Annunciation (1663); Juan Carreño de Miranda, Portrait of Philip IV (ca. 1650), The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (1670), and Portrait of Charles II (ca. 1680); Marcos Fernández Correa, Trompe l’oeils (ca. 1675); and Sebastián Muñoz, Marie Louise d’Orleans, Queen of Spain, Lying in State (1689-1690).
18th and 19th Centuries
The greatest Spanish master of the 18th and early 19th centuries, and indeed one of the progenitors of modern art, was Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, represented in the Society’s collections by paintings, drawings, and almost all of his engravings. The most famous of the Hispanic Society’s pictures is the 1797 portrait of The Duchess of Alba, María de Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Álvarez de Toledo. This early Romantic portrait, which exhibits the influence of 18th-century British portrait painting, also is a document of the artist’s infatuation with his sitter. She wears two rings, one inscribed “Alba” and the other “Goya”, while pointing to letters in the sand proclaiming, “Solo Goya” (“Only Goya”). Other portraits by Goya in the collection include Manuel de Lapeña (1799), Brigadier General Alberto Foraster (1804), Pedro Mocarte (ca. 1805-1806).
Goya’s successors in the collection include the prolific Galician painter Jenaro Pérez Villaamil y Duguet; Eugenio Lucas Velázquez, best known for his imitations of Goya’s works; and three generations of artists in the Madrazo family: José de Madrazo y Agudo, Federico de Madrazo y Garreta, and Huntington’s friend, Raimundo de Madrazo y Kuntz. The most notable of all active at this time was Mariano Fortuny y Marsal. Fortuny pursued an international career, whose potential had just begun to emerge when he died prematurely. His early death on the very eve of the Impressionist era was one of the great tragedies of 19th-century art, made poignant by the remarkable imagery, design, and brushwork in his works, such as Arabs Ascending a Hill (ca. 1862-1863). The Hispanic Society’s collection also includes works by the landscape artist Martín Rico y Ortega, the Valencian costumbrista artist Francisco Domingo y Márquez, the portraitist and history painter Emilio Sala Francés, and the influential Valencian painter who worked in the Impressionist style, Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench.
The succeeding generation of Spanish painters proved no less creative. Among the leading figures represented are the only Spanish member of the Impressionist circle, Aureliano de Beruete y Moret, the symbolist Santiago Rusiñol Prats, and his colleague Ramon Casas i Carbó. These last two occupy a position of special importance as the principal figures of the Catalan modernisme artistic group centered in Els Quatre Gats café in Barcelona. Compositions by the early Catalan proto-modernist and colleagues of Picasso include Isidre Nonell i Monturiol, the Fauvist Joaquín Mir Trinxet, and Hermenigildo Anglada-Camarasa, a native of Mallorca, whose works, painted at Paris around 1910, show the influence of Gustav Klimt and anticipate in many ways the Orphic Cubism of the next decade.
Paintings of Spanish subjects by North American artists who traveled to Spain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are present in the collection. John Singer Sargent traveled to Spain in 1879, in large part to study the work of Velázquez. At the Prado, Sargent copied a painting then attributed to the Spanish master, Dwarf with a Mastiff, Copy after Velázquez (1879-1880), a work that remained in his studio as a point of reference throughout his career. The collection includes another important work The Spanish Dance (1879-1880), that served as a study for one of his most famous paintings El Jaleo (1882). The American Impressionist Childe Hassam is represented by three fine works: Cathedral at Ronda (1910), Ronda (1910), and Square at Sevilla (1910). In addition to works by other American painters, there is a group of 31 small oils made by Max Kuehne during his travels in Spain in 1920.
Sorolla and his Contemporaries
Over the past century the works of the Valencian painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida have become so closely associated with The Hispanic Society of America that now it is almost impossible to mention one without the other. With the largest and most prestigious collection of Sorolla’s works outside of Spain, the Hispanic Society is a required visit, if not a pilgrimage, for all who admire and wish to study the “painter of light.” Today the collection includes 88 oil paintings on canvas, 20 small oil sketches on cardboard or wood panel, and 110 gouaches and drawings.
No other painter of this period dominates the Hispanic Society as much as Sorolla. After winning a medal of honor at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900, he rapidly became the most famous Spanish artist of his generation. He cemented his international importance with his spectacular success at the Hispanic Society in 1909 with an exhibition of 350 paintings that attracted more than 160,000 visitors in its one-month duration. Archer Huntington so admired his work that he commissioned a series of 14 monumental canvases depicting the customs, costumes, and traditions of the regions of Spain, Vision of Spain (1913-1919), for a gallery at the Hispanic Society that he had built specifically for them.
Sorolla enjoyed a special relationship with the Hispanic Society in the years following the institution’s founding in 1904. In addition to sponsoring two exhibitions of Sorolla’s works in America in 1909 and 1911, Archer Huntington acquired scores of works from Sorolla, which form a significant part of the museum’s collection of twentieth-century art. The stunning impact of Beaching the Boat (1903) depends equally on the careful evocation of reality, the play of light, and abstract elements such as the brushwork in the colors of the swirling water. Sorolla’s bravura, realism, and mastery of light often hide the abstract and intellectual aspects of pictures such as After the Bath (1908), with its clear references to the Greco-Roman goddess of beauty, Venus, emerging from the sea. Other notable works in the collection acquired by Huntington from the 1909 exhibition, for himself and the Hispanic Society, include Beach of Valencia by Morning Light (1903), Sea Idyll (1908), and Children on the Beach (1908). The magnificent portrait of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1911), a work commissioned by Tiffany that throughout his life hung in his home Laurelton Hall, entered the Hispanic Society as a gift from his family in the 1950s.
In addition to Sorolla, the Hispanic Society’s collection includes notable examples by contemporaries, such as Hermenegildo Anglada-Camarasa, Joaquim Mir Trinxet, Lluis Graner Arrufi, Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, Eduardo Chicharro, Manuel Benedito Vives, Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor, Gonzalo Bilbao Martínez, and foremost the famous Basque artist Ignacio Zuloaga Zabaleta. An exhibition of Zuloaga’s paintings was held at the Hispanic Society in 1909, the same year as Sorolla’s first exhibition. Major works by Zuloaga which exhibit his great artistic range, include Lucienne Bréval as Carmen (1908), My Cousin Cándida (1908), The Penitents (1908), and The Victim of the Fiesta (1910). Images such as his Portrait of the Family of the Gypsy Bullfighter (1903), capture the distinctive qualities of the people and places of early twentieth-century Spain in a highly personal way.
Early 20th Century
The ethnographic interests and preference for representational art of the Hispanic Society’s founder, continued to be represented in the dozens of portraits and regional scenes from Spain, Portugal, and Cuba that Huntington commissioned from José María López Mezquita in the 1920s and early 1930s. The 34 paintings in the collection by the self-taught Catalan artist Miquel Viladrich Vilá offer a striking contrast to the regional paintings of López Mezquita. Viladrich worked outside contemporary art movements, preferring instead to model his technique and paintings after the Italian primitive painters of the Quattrocento and their Flemish contemporaries. Works in the collection by other artists active in the 1930s that were acquired by Huntington, largely upon the recommendation of López Mezquita, include José de Togores, a Spanish modernist who moved back into representational painting from abstraction in the 1930s, Ramón de Zubiaurre, who painted scenes of Basque regional culture, as well as Joaquín Sunyer Miró, José Pinazo Martínez, and Francisco Núñez Losada.