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For the first time in the U.S. the Museo del Prado is presenting four centuries of history of Spain through the great masters from its collections


• The Museo del Prado is presenting the exhibition “ Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado” in Houston thereby continuing its program of international exhibitions that aims to take its collections outside Spain
• Sponsored by BBVA Compass, the exhibition features one hundred works of the best represented artists in the Museum, such as El Greco, Velazquez, Ribera, Goya and Sorolla

This is the first time that works from the Prado have been taken to the U.S. and the exhibition, which spans four centuries, can be visited in one of the country’s most important museums, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), from December 16 to March 31, 2013.

Following its display at the Queensland Art Gallery (July 21 to November 4, 2012), one of the major museums in Australia, "Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado” was presented today in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts under the sponsorship of BBVA Compass. The events presenting the exhibit were attended by the President of BBVA Compass, Manolo Sánchez, the director of the Museo del Prado, Miguel Zugaza, the Deputy Director of Conservation, Gabriele Finaldi, and Javier Portús, chief curator of Spanish Painting at the Prado and person in charge of the exhibition.

Portrait of Spain will open to the public on December 16 and for the first time an overview of the history of Spain and Spanish art, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, through a series of works made up of eighty paintings y twenty-two works on paper of the most important artists of European painting, mainly Spanish masters such as Goya and Velázquez but also foreign artists who worked for the Spanish court including Rubens and Titian will be taken to the American public. This new project will allow the Museo del Prado to act as outstanding ambassador of Spain to American society.

The exhibition
“Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado" is located in the rooms of the second floor of the Audrey Jones Beck building of the MFAH. The four centuries that the exhibition spans will be represented by the most important artists - El Greco, Ribera, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Murillo, Paret, Van der Hamen, Meléndez, Goya, Vicente López, Federico de Madrazo, Rosales, Fortuny and Sorolla, in addition to foreign artists who worked in Spain or directly influenced its painting, such as Titian and Rubens - and the themes that they encouraged, so that visitors can not only find out about the stylistic evolution of Spanish painting but how thematic interests changed over time, and later expanded the iconographic domain of art.

Through three main sections, the exhibition aims to go through this tour of Spanish painting by highlighting its political, social and artistic development. The first section coincides politically with the Old Regime and the Golden Age of Spanish culture, the second period covers the last quarter of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a “critical” time, with major swings in attitudes, in political organization and forms of social relations, and, finally, the third, covers the last fifty years of the nineteenth century, which saw the birth of modern Spain.

1. 1550-1770. Painting in an absolutist state
Exceptional portraits, mythological scenes, religious paintings and still life paintings of artists such as El Greco, Velázquez and Zurbarán show the splendor of the Golden Age in Spain when the empire was at its height.

This section intends to put the spectator in contact with the leading artists working in the country through three themes: court art, which is represented by the portraits of Isabel Clara Eugenia and Magdalena Ruiz by Sánchez Coello y Philip IV in Hunting Garb by Velázquez, among others, religious painting through The Immaculate Conception of Aranjuez by Murillo or The Dead Christ Held by an Angel by Alonso Cano; and still life, which is widely portrayed by works by Juan van der Hamen y León, Luis Meléndez and Juan de Arellano.

2. 1770-1850. A changing world
With the tumultuous background of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars and the invasion of the French in Spain, as well as the beginning of a series of devastating civil wars, the Spanish artists of the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries became the chroniclers of different sectors of Spanish society.
Highlights of this time include the work of Goya, painter of the courts of Charles IV and Charles V, who represented the ravages of war and madness in his works. Some of his neoclassical portraits are included in the exhibition including those of Manuel Silvela and the Marchioness of Villafranca and a large selection of prints of the artist’s three extraordinary series: Caprices (1799) The Disasters of War (1810-1815) and Follies (1815-1823).

3. 1850-1900. The Thresholds of Modern Spain
After the civil wars, the emergence of a budding Spanish national identity in the nineteenth century led to a period of relative economic prosperity. A transition to Romanticism led to the tastes of the middle class being reflected to a greater degree, including landscapes, portraits, historical and religious scenes and nudity. This section highlights the works of Federico de Madrazo, known for his historical paintings and portraits; Eduardo Rosales who was inspired by the figure of Velázquez in search of a new realism in Spanish painting, Mariano Fortuny, whose fascination with Orientalism was evident in his exotic trips and international career; Aureliano de Beruete, one of the first Spanish painters in identifying with impressionism and, finally, Joaquín Sorolla, whose realistic works depicting the life of fishermen and farmers in addition to the study of the effects of sunlight and shadows pushed Spanish art to the threshold of modernity.

The exhibition is accompanied by a corresponding catalog, a 300-page fully illustrated publication which also includes records of each piece of work in the display and artist profiles, two major essays: a brief history of the Prado, written by Gabriele Finaldi, and a text on the development of painting in Spain, along with a summary of the three main sections of the exhibition, signed by Javier Portús.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Since 1900 the MFAH has been one of the largest museums in the U. S. The museum’s main complex is in the center of the Houston Museum District and is made up of the Audrey Jones Beck Building designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in the year 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building designed by Ludwig Meis van der Rohe, opened in 1958 and expanded in 1974; the Glassell School of Art and the Sculpture Garden of Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen, designed by Isamu Moguchi and opened in 1986. The Beck and Law buildings are connected by an underground tunnel, the Wilson Tunnel, which presents the iconic installation of the artist James Turrell The Light Inside. Additional spaces include a movie theater, two large libraries, public archives in addition to warehousing and storage.

Around the exhibition
Coinciding with exhibiting Portrait of Spain, the MFAH has scheduled a series of educational activities to introduce visitors to Spanish culture.
Detailed information of the calendar of events:


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