Meadows Museum Presents El Greco’s Masterwork "Pentecost" In A New Context
Museum Opens Companion Exhibitions Exploring the Spanish Master’s Historical Influences and Lasting Impact on Contemporary Artists
Works by Yinka Shonibare, Eve Sussman | The Rufus Corporation, José Manuel Ballester and Thomas Struth to be displayed throughout Meadows’ permanent collection.
DALLAS, August 26, 2010 – This September, El Greco’s monumental masterpiece Pentecost will be installed at SMU’s Meadows Museum, marking the beginning of a multifaceted three-year partnership with the Prado Museum in Madrid. The presentation of the painting, which is on loan from the Prado, will coincide with the release of a book that includes new research about El Greco and the socio-cultural atmosphere of his time. Pentecost will serve as a focal point for the reimagining of the museum’s installation of its permanent collection, acting as a gateway between the old masters and the artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. In conjunction with this presentation, the Meadows has organized two companion exhibitions that explore the history of Spanish art and its contemporary influence. Together, the exhibitions and publications offer a renewed look at one of Spain’s greatest masters.
Painted between 1596 and 1600, Pentecost is believed to have been part of a massive altarpiece created for the Colegio de Doña María de Aragón, an Augustinian seminary in Madrid. Featuring graceful, elongated figures in muted blues and grays, the style is characteristic of El Greco, though the subject matter is unique in his oeuvre, with the exception of one other piece believed to have been painted by his workshop. The loan will join El Greco’s Saint Francis Kneeling in Meditation, as well as masterpieces by other artists of the Golden Age, including Velázquez, Goya and Murillo in the Meadows’ permanent collection.
In conjunction with the installation of Pentecost, the Meadows will present two new exhibitions, Spanish Muse: A Contemporary Response -- on view from September 12 – December 12, 2010 -- and Sultans and Saints: Spain’s Confluence of Cultures, on view from September 12, 2010 – January 23, 2011. Spanish Muse will explore the lasting influence of the Spanish masters on contemporary artists, and will also commemorate the Meadows’ 45th anniversary. Sultans and Saints will look at the history of Spanish art through a variety of media, including sculpture, manuscripts and paintings.
The publication of El Greco’s Pentecost in a New Context will shed new light on both the artist and the painting, by looking at El Greco and Pentecost through the lens of the social, political, and religious environment in which El Greco was working. The essays included in the publication explore El Greco’s clientele and the commissioning of Pentecost for the altarpiece, and examine the way the painting was perceived and understood in medieval Spain.
“Algur Meadows, the founder of the Museum, was a great admirer of El Greco, and considered his works to be crucial to a collection of Spanish art,” said Meadows Museum Director Mark Roglán. “This is a very important moment for us, as the loan of this painting brings us one step closer to fulfilling Meadows’ vision of a Prado on the Prairie.”
Spanish Muse will feature works by contemporary artists who have been inspired by art produced or collected in Spain and displayed in some of Spain’s leading art institutions. Featuring work in a variety of media, including video, sculpture, photography and painting, the exhibition will include works by artists living around the world such as Yinka Shonibare, Claudio Bravo and Manola Valdés. The pieces will be displayed throughout the Meadows’ permanent collection, providing a reinterpretation of the Meadows holdings, and forging new connections between artists working today and the masters of Spain’s past. Exhibition highlights will include Eve Sussman | The Rufus Corporation’s 89 seconds at Alcázar, a ten-minute cinematographic piece inspired by Velázquez’s Las Meninas; Thomas Struth’s Museo del Prado 8-1—8-5, a series of photographs of museum goers at the Prado; and José Manuel Ballester’s El Jardin Deshabitado, a digital rendering of Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, with all human references removed. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the show with an essay by the exhibition’s curator, Nicole Atzbach.
Sultans and Saints is an exploration of the historical and religious influences on El Greco and his artistic peers at the time of the convivencia and Counter Reformation in Spain, particularly in the religious center of Toledo. The exhibition will feature works of art, including manuscripts, ceramics, painting, and sculpture, that reflect the cultural and artistic exchanges among Jews, Muslims and Christians from the period of the convivencia to the Counter Reformation. The exhibition will include objects from the permanent collection at the Meadows Museum, as well as items from SMU’s Bridwell and DeGolyer libraries.
Twenty-five items produced in Spain from the 15th to the early 17th century will be on loan from the Bridwell Library, including an indulgence from 1490 promoting the crusade in Granada, letters of nobility issued by Charles V and Phillip II, and a collection of sermons and scriptural explications by a Dominican priest tried by the Inquisition. Additionally, Dr. Anne E. Peterson, curator of photographs at the DeGolyer Library, has assisted in finding a private collector to loan three 19th-century photographs which feature stunning views of the Alhambra and the cathedrals in Toledo and Seville, illustrating the religious architecture of the time.
The display and study of El Greco’s painting, as well as a book of scholarly essays, an internship exchange, and a series of public programs, are part of the larger partnership between the two museums, which will bring new insight and research to Spanish art, and will expose Texas audiences to some of Spain’s most stunning masterworks. The essays will present new research and findings about El Greco and Pentecost, as well as shed light on one of the most important periods of artistic activity in Spain.
The essays featured in the publication for Pentecost will include the following:
• “El Greco in Toledo: the Artist’s Clientele” by Dr. Richard Kagan, Professor of History, The Johns Hopkins University
• “Pentecost in the Altarpiece of the Colegio de Doña María de Aragón: The Synthesis of El Greco’s Final Style” by Dr. Leticia Ruiz Gómez, Head of the Department of Spanish Painting until 1700, Prado Museum
• “Flaming Tongues: Valences of Pentecost in Early Modern Spain” by Dr. Hilaire Kallendorf, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies, Texas A&M University
• “El Greco’s Painting Technique: The Restoration of Pentecost” by Rafael Alonso Alonso, Conservator, Prado Museum
The arrival of Pentecost and the opening of the companion exhibitions represent the first steps in a partnership between the Meadows Museum and the Prado. The two museums have a shared mission to advance the recognition and understanding of Spanish art, and this partnership represents the logical next step in furthering the goals of each museum. The collaboration – the first international program of its kind for the Prado – will include the loan of major paintings from the Prado, interdisciplinary research at SMU, an internship exchange between the two museums, and a range of public programs.
Next year, the Prado will lend the Meadows Jusepe de Ribera’s Mary Magdalene followed by Diego Velázquez’s full-length portrait of Philip IV in 2012. Upon the arrival of each loan, the museum will produce a bilingual publication presenting new research across multiple subject areas, and will organize a series of symposia and educational programming with national and international scholars. Since the announcement of the partnership, the collaboration has already expanded, and the installation of Ribera’s Mary Magdalene will be accompanied by the loan of additional pieces from other distinguished collections.
In the fall of 2011, the two museums will initiate The Algur H. Meadows/Prado Internships, an annual exchange with one appointment made by each institution. This will be the first curatorial internship ever to be mounted by the Prado with a foreign institution. Sponsored by the Meadows Museum, the internships will provide graduate students with the opportunity to gain professional and international experience, and to work closely with the curatorial staff at each institution.
The Meadows has a long history of collaboration with renowned international institutions. Over the course of Roglán’s tenure, the Meadows has mounted numerous exhibitions presenting works that rarely travel to the U.S., partnering with major Spanish institutions including the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Patrimonio Nacional, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. The collaboration with the Prado represents a natural extension of the existing relationship between the two museums, as the Meadows has often lent works to special exhibitions at the Prado and collaborated on research.
The Meadows Museum is the leading U.S. institution focused on the study and presentation of the art of Spain. In 1962, Dallas businessman and philanthropist Algur H. Meadows donated his private collection of Spanish paintings, as well as funds to start a museum, to Southern Methodist University. The museum opened to the public in 1965, marking the first step in fulfilling Meadows’ vision to create a “Prado on the Prairie.” Meadows hired William B. Jordan, an American historian of Spanish painting, in 1967 to serve as director of the Museum, and worked with him over the next 11 years to assemble an outstanding collection of Spanish masterpieces.
Today, the Meadows collection of Spanish art—one of the largest and most comprehensive outside of Spain—comprises more than 125 paintings and sculptures and approximately 450 works on paper. The collection spans from the 10th to the 21st century, and includes medieval objects, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, and major paintings by Golden Age and modern masters.
The Prado Museum is Spain’s premier art museum and was founded by King Ferdinand VII in 1819. It houses a collection of paintings from the 12th to the early 20th century, and includes several of the great masterpieces of European painting, including Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, El Greco’s Portrait of a Man with his Hand on his Chest, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, and Goya’s The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808. It also includes collections of ancient sculpture, decorative arts, and drawings, prints and photographs, including the world’s largest and most important group of works on paper by Goya. In 2007 the Prado opened its new extension, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rafael Moneo, which provides the Museum with new spaces for exhibitions, conservation and storage. The Prado has an ambitious program of temporary exhibitions, which has included in recent years Titian (2003), Manet in the Prado (2004), Tintoretto (2005), Picasso: Tradition and Avant-garde (2006), Velázquez’s Fables (2007), Francis Bacon (2009) and Sorolla (2009).