Spain without crowds? It is possible without leaving Manhattan

That Upper Manhattan is home to the world’s largest collection of Spanish art outside of Spain might make you wonder if you’ve dug deep into the sherry cask, but that’s just the surprising truth.

The Hispanic Society of America, a museum that reopened in May at 155th and Broadway, is home to over 900 paintings, 6000 watercolors and drawings, and more, including several works by Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco, and the largest 14-painting commission , ever executed by Joaquín Sorolla. While the museum has undergone a lengthy refurbishment in recent years, parts of its collection have been on something of a grand voyage back to the continent, earning rave reviews at exhibitions in London and the Prado. You don’t have to take my word for the awesomeness of the collection; Miguel Zugaza, Director of the Prado, proclaimed, “The richness of the Hispanic Society’s collections is truly astounding, and the remarkably apt acquisitions of recent years are a revelation. I think everyone will be amazed at the quality and scope of these treasures.” If a trip to Madrid is worthwhile, then a trip to Hamilton Heights is definitely worth it.

The museum’s director, Guillame Kientz, has intentions of “reintroducing these works to New York”, although the first task may be to inform the city of their existence.

The Hispanic Society is also housed in a highly unusual ensemble of Beaux Arts cultural facilities laid out on a city block — Audubon Terrace — across from Manhattan’s largest cemetery. They were developed by the learned scion of one of the greatest robber barons of our time and are worth the trip alone.

The museum’s reopening focuses on two main exhibitions featuring works by Sorolla, the pre-eminent turn-of-the-century Spanish painter, paired with works by Venezuelan kinetic-pop and op artist Jesús Rafael Soto. Other reopened exhibitions focus on the artist Juan de Pareja, Velazquez’s slave (eventually freed), pupil and portrait object offered in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition on his work and life, as well as the exquisite (living) Spanish jewelry designer Luz Camino. And there’s a lot more to come.

We have many Francophiles, Anglophiles, and Japanophiles in the US, but Hispanophiles are a rarer breed. Some museums have extensive collections of Spanish art, largely due to the enthusiasm of some giants like Frick and Hearst for these works. There are a handful of museums that focus primarily on Spanish art (and art of the larger Hispanic world with some Portuguese elements), such as the Meadows Museum in Dallas. The Hispanic Society is the premier viceroy of all in terms of both the size and scope of its collection – which is often praised for showcasing not only the most well-known names in Spanish art, but also a broad overview of all manner of lesser-known great talent offers .

(Left to right) Amantis, Hummingbird, Great China

Courtesy of the Noguchi Museum

How did this happen?

The museum opened in 1908, just a decade after the Spanish-American War, as a project by Archer Milton Huntington, stepson of Collis Potter Huntington, a railroad millionaire. (It was rumored that Archer was actually Collis’ real son, the result of an affair with Archer’s mother before Collis’ first wife died.) A visit to San Marcos, Texas in the early 1870s sparked a wider interest in the A native of Hispanic culture, Archer studied Spanish with a Valladolid tutor (and later even Arabic) before traveling regularly to Spain.

Hispanic Society Museum and Library

Courtesy of the Noguchi Museum

As everyone knows, a wealthy stepfather is the best qualification for a life as a collector, but Archer devoted far more attention to art than most idle rich people.

In a diary entry he explained: “I have always collected with an eye on the clear limitations of the available material, always bearing in mind the need to provide a high-level overview without duplication… I have often surprised my dealer friends by finding a rejected an object that… Most collectors would have accepted it enthusiastically.” Huntington’s collection was thus filled with paintings by less famous Spanish artists such as Juan Carreño de Miranda, Antonio de Pareja, Juan Antonio Escalante, Mateao Cerezo and Sebastian Muñoz.

Painting by Joaquin Sorolla

Courtesy of the Noguchi Museum

Huntington was also a relatively conscientious collector; Beyond books (one of his first purchases was a 20,000-volume library), he avoided buying paintings in Spain, lest he be considered a “plunderer” of that country’s treasures. Compare this to William Randolph Hearst, who bought an entire Spanish monastery and shipped it to California in pieces, some of which still lie around near San Francisco today. Some of Hungtington’s regular dealers seem to have figured out how to circumvent his noble principles by buying paintings in Spain and gifting them to him while keeping their provenance secret, but he generally tried to leave the legacy in Spain.

Its focus was also significantly more scholarly than most, as the Society regularly published monographs and other volumes on Spain. This may have meant the museum is less well known compared to other peacock museums, but once upon a time the society drew a fair crowd as the exhibitions stayed open until 11pm when it opened in 1908 to accommodate crowds.

Huntington also collected not only the long dead but also the very living, none more so than Sorolla, whose work he discovered in a London exhibition shortly after the society opened. He quickly organized an exhibition at home and avidly collected, eventually purchasing 34 paintings and commissioning the museum’s showpiece Visions of Spain Series.

Painting by Joaquin Sorolla

Courtesy of the Noguchi Museum

Sorolla works currently occupy the main gallery of the building along with those of Soto. It is a magnificent space, stylistically unparalleled in New York, a double-height gallery surrounded by a terracotta arcade modeled on a terraced castle in Almeria. Simone de Beauvoir liked it when she wrote in 1947:

“I was amazed when I walked through a door and found myself in the heart of Spain. The quiet rooms smelled of Spain; they are decorated with majolica, carved paneling and fine embossed leather; Goyda, Grecos and Zurbarans hang on the walls of the gallery that runs around the central hall.

Surrounding this ground floor are Sorolla paintings of him and his wife, beach scenes, one titled ‘The Peppers’ and one by Leonardo Torres Quevado, inventor of the rigid airship (there is one in the background). These are interspersed with pieces by Soto. His best-known commissions are large-scale installation art. They can be found from La Défense to Air France headquarters to many places in Venezuela, and much of it literally moves kinetically with the breeze. Most of them don’t move but use optical illusions to appear to do so.

An outstanding talent, Sorolla was a friend of John Singer Sargent, with whom his work bears some resemblance. He was unlucky to be a prodigiously talented semi-traditionalist working in the early days of modernism, and his reputation suffered in the decades that followed. Sorolla’s trademark was an exceptionally impressionistic use of light and shadow in works that otherwise don’t really fit into this category – it’s an intoxicating vantage point.

Painting by Joaquin Sorolla

Courtesy of the Noguchi Museum

=Huntington was a blessing to Sorolla; He wrote to his wife, ‘I believe I have come to know God incarnate’, and he was happy to play his Titian to Philip II by commissioning Sorolla’s most ambitious work especially for the Society, a series of 14 paintings with a width of 70 meters Embrace the entire country with oils. Sorolla worked on them from 1914 to 1919, painting or beginning almost all of them outdoors. It is a wonderful assortment with different pieces The tuna fishing in Ayamonte, The market in Extremadura, Bowling in Gipuzkoa, The dance in Seville, The City Council of Navarre, a bullfight and much more. The choice is enormous and the style varies: the backgrounds vary from realistic to almost fauvist, shadows and lights are rendered in the colors he likes, but all work exceptionally well. These were the result of close natural observation and all kinds of care. Some appear to closely resemble their locations, others engage in artistic elimination; Ávila and Toledo are about 70 miles apart but across a valley castile to paint.

There are numerous works on display, some of which have been exhibited in the museum’s small advance exhibitions in a side gallery in recent years. These include an acclaimed El Greco Pietà, Velazquez paintings ranging from the Duke of Olivares (of Philip IV’s Cardinal Richelieu variety) to a little girl, Goya paintings of grandees and drawings of a bull attacked by dogs. There are also plays by Francisco de Zurbarán, the Spaniard Caravaggio, and Bayeaux, Goya’s teacher and brother-in-law. Newer painters also shine; Rogelio de Egusquiza, a Wagner megafan, the Catalan luminary Ramon Casas and Mariano Fortuny y Marsal. Other Sorollas will follow, including a portrait of Louis Tiffany and one of Ortega y Gasset.

Now let’s not forget the setting: the campus has been widely praised and somehow overlooked. Robert Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and John Massengale named it in their New York 1900: Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism 1890-1915, “Perhaps the grandest attempt to unite the artistic and philosophical aims of the American Renaissance. A vertical acropolis of academic and educational institutions that is unique outside of the context of a university.”

With his cousin, the architect Charles Pratt Huntington, Archer Huntington continued to build museums and institutions, an eclectic mix that only seemed possible at the time: the American Numismatic Society, the American Geographical Society, a museum of American Indians. There are also two buildings for what later became the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters by Cass Gilbert and McKim, Mead and White. There is also a church, Our Lady of Esperanza, with a facade remodeled by Stanford White’s son and a sanctuary lamp by then-King Alfonso XII.

Courtesy of the Noguchi Museum

Some of these institutions have disappeared over the years, and their buildings have been purchased by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (which also hosts art shows), Boricua College, and the Hispanic Society.

The complex, which looked run-down and uninviting about a year ago, is making active efforts to reconnect with the neighborhood, and the natural convention of a Hispanic society located in a Hispanic neighborhood is to be attracted with new programs Neighbors – from concerts to art exhibitions – instead of keeping them outside. Ahead are exhibitions on the murals of Orozco as well as Picasso and the novel La Celestina. In addition, it is always free: the subway ride has rarely been so worthwhile.

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