Hispanic identity has been shaped during the last century by a conscious selection of historical periods of its history. After the loss of the last colonies of the former Spanish Empire at the end of the 19th century, the nation had hit rock bottom in political terms. To counterbalance this decline, writers, poets, essayists and scholars from the so-called generation of ’98 aimed for the restoration of the cultural splendor of the Spanish Golden Age, a period of flourishing in the arts and literature that spans from Philip II’s reign until the death of Charles II in 1700, the last of the Habsburg monarchs. This wish has been constant through the 20th century and is also connected with the rise of neobaroque aesthetics and postmodernism. Baroque has become a multifaceted concept and, nowadays, is more a space of reflection than a chronological or formal label. The lecture will explore the continuity of baroque art in Spanish contemporary culture such as art, photography, cinema, pop music, comics, cartoons, internet memes, football or television series, where the fascination with Spanish Golden Age is not only a matter of style or aesthetics but also political and identitary. From inspiration to appropriation, from art galleries to politics, baroque art is a powerful tool in contemporary Spain.
The National Gallery holds one of the finest paintings collections by the Spanish 17th–century artist Francisco de Zurbarán in the world. They have also recently acquired a painting by his son, Juan. Zurbarán lived in Seville, the main European port to the Americas from which he sent over 100 paintings.
Akemi Herráez Vossbrink, The CEEH Curatorial Fellow in Spanish Paintings, discusses the history of collecting Zurbarán, including paintings in their Spanish context, collecting practices in the UK, and the circulation of his work in the Americas.
This event is free and no booking is required. Spaces are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
In ‘Black but Human’ Carmen Fracchia, Reader in Hispanic Art History at Birkbeck, explores the emergence of the slave and freed slave subjects in the visual form of Imperial Spain. The book considers the links between visual regimes and early modern Spanish discourses on slavery and human diversity that are the historic roots of contemporary racism in the Hispanic world.
‘Black but Human’ is the first study to focus on the visual representations of African slaves and ex-slaves in Spain during the Hapsburg dynasty. The Afro-Hispanic proverb ‘Black but Human’ is the main thread of the six chapters and serves as a lens through which to explore how a certain visual representation of slavery both embodies and reproduces hegemonic visions of enslaved and liberated Africans, and at the same time provides material for critical and emancipatory practices by Afro-Hispanics themselves.
The African presence in the Iberian Peninsula between the late fifteenth century and the end of the seventeenth century was as a result of the institutionalization of the local and transatlantic slave trades. In addition to the Moors, Berbers and Turks born as slaves, there were approximately two million enslaved people in the kingdoms of Castile, Aragón and Portugal. The ‘Black but Human’ topos that emerges from the African work songs and poems written by Afro-Hispanics encodes the multi-layered processes through which a black emancipatory subject emerges and a ‘black nation’ forges a collective resistance. It is visually articulated by Afro-Hispanic and Spanish artists in religious paintings and in the genres of self-portraiture and portraiture. This extraordinary imagery coexists with the stereotypical representations of African slaves and ex-slaves by Spanish sculptors, engravers, jewellers, and painters mainly in the religious visual form and by European draftsmen and miniaturists, in their landscape drawings and sketches for costume books.
Click here for more information and to pre-order this book
The Spanish fashion designer’s approach to his designs was informed by his lifelong love of art sparked by his youthful admiration of the paintings owned by clients of his seamstress mother, in particular the Marquis and Marchioness of Casa Torres, who spent their summers in the Palacio Aldamar (also known as Vista Ona) in Getaría. Three of the paintings on display in this exhibition, and loaned by the Prado, were in that collection: Head of an Apostle by Velázquez; Saint Sebastian by El Greco; and Cardinal Luis María de Borbón y Vallabriga by Goya. The latter establishes a dialogue with a magnificent red dress suit with a short jacket loaned from the Museo del Traje in Madrid. Balenciaga frequently drew on the heritage of his Spanish homeland, going further than adding flamenco ruffles to his dresses and seeking inspiration by re-imagining bull fighters’ jackets. The exhibition explores the influence of four centuries of Spanish painting on the couturier’s work. Zurbarán was one inspiration, his drapery influencing Balenciaga’s bold sashes. In 1939 Velázquez’s portraits of the Infanta Magarita were reinterpreted by the dress designer’s work. Also notable is the interaction between a spectacular blue silk evening gown and cape and the mantle of the same colour seen in The Immaculate Conception by Murillo from the Arango collection. The curator Eloy Martínez de la Pera, has drawn together some 90 examples of Balenciaga’s work alongside 55 paintings, including works by El Greco, Murillo, Goya and the nineteenth-century artist Antonio María Esquivel. Paintings have been lent by the Prado, Bilbao, Seville and Valencia and costumes, some of which have never been displayed before and designs have been lent by the Balenciaga Museum in his hometown in Getaría, and archives in Paris. The exhibition also explores the impact of Philip II’s court making the use of black fashionable for clothing throughout Europe, and how Balenciaga chose to transform it in his own way. As the magazine Harper’s Bazaar wrote in 1938: “at the new Spanish house Balenciaga [in Paris] the black is so black that it hits you like a blow. Thick Spanish black, almost velvety, a night without stars, which makes the ordinary black seem almost grey.”
20 works of Spanish religious sculpture and painting are currently on display in the monumental wards of the ancient hospital of Bruges. It is a rare opportunity to become acquainted with some lesser-known aspects of Spain’s Golden Age. The highlight of the exhibition, in addition to paintings by famous Spanish masters like Murillo and Zurbaran, is a group of six hyper-realistic sculptures by the greatest sculptor of the Spanish Baroque, Pedro de Mena. This project is in collaboration with the Luxemburg Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art and the exhibition will travel to this museum in 2020. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in English, with texts by Ruud Priem, Sibylla Goegebuer, Malgorzata Nowara, Gilles Zeimat, and Noël Geirnaert. Click here for more information on the exhibition and here for the catalogue.
This new exhibition features a diverse selection of more than 100 outstanding works produced by leading artists from Spain and its global territories.
Spain’s Golden Age may be defined as the
extraordinary moment when the visual arts, architecture, literature, and
music all reached unprecedented heights.
Art & Empire: The Golden Age of Spain is the first exhibition in the United States to expand the notion of “Golden Age” to include the Hispanic world beyond the shores of the Iberian Peninsula. Such far-flung Spanish-controlled centers as Antwerp, Naples, Mexico, Lima, and the Philippines are represented by paintings, sculpture and decorative arts of astounding quality and variety from the pivotal years of about 1660 to 1750.
Artists featured in the exhibition include Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Francisco de Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera, El Greco, Juan de Valdés Leal, Juan Sánchez Cotán, and many more. This exhibition also marks the first time in the Museum’s history that all five of the Spanish masters represented on the Museum’s building façade —Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, Ribera and El Greco— will be shown together at the Museum.
Also on display is a contemporary response to Art and Empire: The Golden Age of Spain, featuring a group of 12 encaustic-on-canvas “portraits” of Christ’s disciples by contemporary Spanish artist José-María Cano.