The Hispanic Society of America holds over fifteen thousand prints which afford a unique glimpse of the graphic arts in Spain from the 17th century to the present. In addition to those by Spanish artists there are a large number of images relating to the Hispanic world produced by foreign artists from the 16th century onwards. Printmaking in Spain before the 17th century primarily focused on devotional images and book illustrations, fine examples of which are represented in the rare books collection. The collection is also notable for its extraordinary section of illustrations of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, totaling more than four thousand engravings, etchings, and lithographs.
The Department of Prints & Photographs was originally founded to document life and customs in Spain, but it contains objects in both media that constitute major works of art in their own right.
The photography collection consists of over one hundred seventy-six thousand black and white images documenting art, culture, costumes, customs, and locales from 1850 onwards in Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and the Philippines. Many of these images now preserve a way of life irrevocably lost. Among the rarest are those from the 19th century, but the collection also features more than fifteen thousand photographs taken by Hispanic Society curators and staff who traveled throughout Spain and Latin America in the 1920s. In general, the collection reflects Archer Milton Huntington’s vision of the Hispanic Society and his desire for a photographic archive of customs as well as art. Huntington had learned at an early age how useful photography could be for research when he amassed an impressive collection for his own studies, and he consistently stressed the importance of a photography collection in the Society.
The Prints afford a unique survey of the graphic arts in Spain from the seventeenth to early twentieth century. While the collection contains incomparable engravings and etchings by such seventeenth century artists as Ribera, its strengths lie in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and it includes almost all of Goya’s prints.
The prings & photographs collection is accessible to qualified researchers by appointment only and with proper identification.