Presented by Marcus B. Burke, Ph.D., Senior Curator
The Hispanic Society of America
In anticipation of the 400th anniversary of the death of El Greco, the great painter of the Spanish Renaissance, the DCA’s Art Lecture Series Committee has chosen to focus this 53rd annual Lecture Series on three iconic masters of Spanish art. “El Greco, Goya and Sorolla: Three Artistic Visions” will be presented by Marcus B. Burke, Ph.D., the Senior Curator at The Hispanic Society of America (HSA) in New York this October at the “DCA Meadowlands”, the DCA’s home in Darien, Connecticut.
The collections of the Hispanic Society’s Museum and Library of the art and culture of Spain, Portugal and its former colonies, now referred to as Latin America, are unparalleled in both their quality and scope outside the Iberian Peninsula today. Reflecting the vision of the institution’s founder, Archer Milton Huntington, the Beaux Arts buildings on Audubon Terrace in upper Manhattan now comprise the most comprehensive collections representing the artistic and cultural traditions of Hispanic culture in this country — and the Library is a destination and primary resource for scholars worldwide.
El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614) was the most important late Renaissance artist in Spain, influenced by Titian, Tintoretto, and Michelangelo while in Venice and Rome.
The lecture included El Greco’s most famous works, emphasizing those on view in New York, preparatory to the upcoming joint exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November of 15 El Greco paintings. This joint assemblage of the collections of both the Hispanic Society’s six El Greco paintings with those of the MMA is part of the larger celebration of this great painter at six other East Coast museums this fall. The Old Master, whose works continue to startle with their emotional power and painterliness, is now understood to have been a harbinger of modernism. He captured the artistic imaginations of artists centuries later, including Picasso and Pollock, and continues to do so. As recently noted by Roberta Smith in The New York Times, El Greco’s “distorted figures, levitating compositions, rough surfaces and shards of color …have long been seen as the proto-modernist precursors of Expressionism and Cubism.”
Francisco Goya (1746-1828) was one of the first great modern artists, and is the giant in Spanish art at the end of the Enlightenment and the beginning of Romanticism.
Discussion emphasized the means that Goya uses to convey ideas in his pictures, both complicated political and philosophical ideas and information about the people he depicted. Notably, his monumental canvas, The Duchess of Alba, which is part of the collection of the HSA, was discussed in detail. The luscious beauty of his works, and the radical artistic and technical means he brought to their creation, continue to hold his place as one of the giants in Spanish (and world) art.
Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) was the foremost Spanish artist, and surely the best-known internationally, at the turn of the twentieth century – his exhibition at the Hispanic Society in New York attracted 160,000 people in four weeks of February 1909.
Housed in a separate building on Audubon Terrace, Sorolla’s murals that make up the “Vision of Spain” cycle, were specially commissioned by Huntington for installation in New York. He combined plein air realism with Impressionist techniques to produce images of ravishing beauty, including landscapes, beach scenes, portraits, and images on social themes. The HSA has the largest collection of his work outside of the Museo Sorolla in Madrid..
The Hispanic Society of America (HSA) is a museum and reference library for the study of the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. The collections are unparalleled in their scope and quality outside the Iberian Peninsula, addressing nearly every aspect of culture in Spain, as well as a large part of Portugal and Latin America, through the twentieth century. This specially arranged guided tour began at the HSA, located on Audubon Terrace, upper Broadway in New York City.