January 7, 2014
By Judith H. Dobrzynski
"See that green on his face? See how he uses his finger there?" Mark A. Roglán, the director of the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University here, is bubbling with enthusiasm for his latest acquisition. It's a tender portrait of a youth painted by Francisco Goya just months before the artist died. Mr. Roglán is so overjoyed that he has placed the work in the middle of the museum's central gallery, rather than against a wall, so viewers can read the affectionate dedication scrawled across the back: "Goya to his grandson in 1827 in his 81st year."
Oddly, "Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist's Grandson" failed to sell at Sotheby's in January 2013. Expected to fetch $6 million to $8 million, it had come from the estate of the renowned collector George Embiricos, a Greek shipping magnate who also owned the Cézanne "Card Players" that was reportedly sold privately in 2012 to the Qatari royal family for $250 million. The Goya was fresh to the market, not exhibited publicly since 1970, which should have enhanced desirability.
But Mr. Roglán, 42, a bear of a man who bought the picture this fall for a price near the low end of the estimate, has a ready explanation: The informal portrait, painted quickly and in a limited palette, is too modern for Old Master collectors and too old-fashioned for collectors of mid-19th-century art—but perfect for the Meadows, which aims to be the center for Spanish art in the U.S. As the sixth Goya in the collection, this "bridge between tradition and modernity" takes the Meadows a step further toward the aspiration of its founder, Dallas oilman Algur H. Meadows (1899-1978), to create "a Prado on the prairie," that is, a smaller version of Spain's comprehensive national museum...
Strategically, Mr. Roglán scored a bigger hit in 2010, when he forged a three-year pact with the Prado, which promised to lend a major painting to the Meadows annually, among other things. So far, the Prado has sent El Greco's "Pentecost" (c.1600), Ribera's "Mary Magdalene" (c. 1637) and Velázquez's "Philip IV" (1623-27) for focused exhibitions. The Prado could easily have partnered with more prestigious museums, but Mr. Roglan says it was attracted by their shared mission of promoting Spanish art and the Meadows's setting at a university, which can provide access to scholars in many fields.
The partnership has since been extended and expanded; the two museums are now organizing exhibitions that they both show.
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