Spain and the Hispanic World ★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Jan 21 - Apr 10, 2023


Opened in New York City in 1908, the library and museum of the Hispanic Society of America has an enormous historical and geographical mandate. Founder, Archer M. Huntington, purchased works significant to Spanish culture from pre-historic times into the 20th century, and his collection of art in the Hispanic Americas dates from the time of the conquest. His important acquisitions comprise a collection of over 750,000 objects and include manuscripts, ceramics, metalwork, textiles and canvases. The current renovations of the Society's premises have resulted in this touring exhibition of some 150 works which offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a glimpse into the depth of the Society's holdings and to experience the civilisation that Huntington loved. Spain and the Hispanic World is arranged chronologically with the first two rooms providing insight into prehistoric, Roman and Islamic Spain. The next gallery, Medieval and Early Modern Spain, displays a third of the objects in the show and includes paintings by El Greco, Zurbarán and Velázquez. There are then three galleries covering the Hispanic influence in the New World and the infusing of imported Spanish arts with local cultures. Next is a separate gallery which displays works by Goya, including the iconic portrait of the Duchess of Alba. The final two rooms of the show explore Huntington's enthusiasm for contemporary painters like Joaquín Sorolla and Ignacio Zuloaga, concluding with a look at Huntington's commission of Sorolla to create the Vision of Spain series. This exhibition offers a unique opportunity to share a collector's passion for his subject and to gain an engrossing view into Hispanic culture through its artifacts.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, The Duchess of Alba (detail), 1797

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