New Britain Museum of American Art

New Britain, CT



Espana: American Artists and the Spanish Experience

January 30 - April 4, 1999

Why was the Iberian peninsula such a mecca for Americans in the nineteenth century? Why did such famous painters like Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, and others endure the hardships of traveling in a foreign land to produce this fascinating subject matter?

A glance at the walls of the New Britain Museum of American Art will give some of the answers. American artists began to travel to Spain in the nineteenth century after being encouraged by their teachers to paint the land, customs, and people of exotic countries. Mary Cassatt went alone, against the advice of her family, and returned with some of the most magnificent images of her early career, including Peasant Woman Peeling an Orange, in the exhibition. Cassatt's Woman Peeling an Orange (1872-73; private collection) tells us that the colorful Spanish people were reasons enough to brave the journey to Spain, a trip not generally taken by women alone.

John Singer Sargent was completely taken by everything Spanish, particularly flamenco dancers, gypsies, and exotic Moorish architecture. Sargent's Study for Spanish Dance (El Jaleo), of circa 1880 (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City), tells us that he was enthralled with the rhythms of Spanish music and dance. William Merritt Chase (Sunny Spain, ca. 1882; private collection), and Robert Henri led a continuous stream of American art students to the Iberian peninsula, introducing them to the work of Murillo, Velazquez, Fortuny, and Sorolla. Edwin Lord Weeks's Court in the Alhambra in the Time of the Moors (1876; private collection) tells us that the Alhambra was a major stop of the tourist and artist trail even in Post-Civil war times. Francis Luis Mora's Street in Ronda (1909; private collection), and other landscapes in the exhibition--all depict the sunbaked villages of a country known for its extremes of light and shade.

Organized by the Hollis Taggart Gallery in New York City and the New Britain Museum of American Art, the exhibition is curated by Dr. Elizabeth Boone, the country's foremost expert on Spanish subjects created by American artists. Boone, Professor of Art History at Humboldt State University, Eureka, California, whose Ph.D. dissertation forms the conceptual framework for this study, is the author of the accompanying 111 page exhibition catalogue. Never before has the subject of Americans in Spain been so comprehensively examined.

Dr. Boone will lead a museum trip to Spain on March 13 - 23 this spring. Director of Administration, Mel Ellis, will also accompany the adventurers to wonderful places such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao (the site of the new Guggenheim Museum), and other exotic Spanish towns.

From top to bottom: John Singer Sargent, Terragona, c. 1908, watercolor, gouache and graphite on paper mounted on board, 19 1/2 x 13 7/8 inches, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, Grace Judd Landers Fund; Robert Henri, Spanish Girl of Segovia, 1912, oil on canvas, 40 3/4 x 33 1/8 inches, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, John Butler Talcott Fund; front cover for Espana catalogue.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10

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