Two views of children: Juan Pantoga de la
Cruz's in 1607 (left) and Pablo Picasso's in 1950.
makes the Guggenheim exhibition “Spanish Painting from El Greco to
Picasso: Time, Truth, and History” so exceptional exceeds even the
astounding wealth of masterworks assembled from private collections
and museums ranging from Madrid’s Prado and Reina Sofia to the
Cleveland Art Museum. It lies in the arrangement of the 140
paintings in thematic groupings that bypass chronology in order to
focus on timeless qualities of Spanish history and culture.
works spans half a millennium. Yet to view them alongside others
that may be separated by centuries but are connected by content and
sensibility is to see great art transcending its moment of creation.
representatives of the avant-garde like Picasso, Dali, Miró, and
Gris, once thought to have been totally divorced from the tradition
of Spain’s “Golden Age,” are revealed to be as grounded in the dark
richness of the Spanish soil as are El Greco, Zurbaran, Velázquez,
and on to Goya.
section devoted to “Monstruos,” for example, Velazquez’s 1643
naturalistic portrait of the dwarf “Don Sebastian de Morra” appears
beside Picasso’s 1959 surrealistic “El Bobo” – different approaches
but a common subject and an expressive humanity. In the section
devoted to “Bodegones” (materials found in pantries or still life
objects), Cotán’s 1602 depiction of root vegetables on a windowsill
and Miró’s 1920 painting, of a table laden with foods, a rooster and
rabbit, share not only content but a disturbing starkness and vivid
other groupings focus on Monks (popular subjects during the Counter
Reformation for their ascetic spirituality); Landscape (newly
discovered in the Golden Age), Nudes, Childhood, Knights and Ghosts,
Crucifixions, The Fallen, Flyers, and themes relating to women: The
Domestic World, Women in Public Weeping Women, Virgins and Mothers,
and Ladies. As each segment winds its way up the Guggenheim spiral,
it is preceded by a clear and beautifully composed statement that
prepares the viewer for the historical and cultural context of the
paintings and the transcendent connection of one to another.
had previously seen many of these works in their homes at the Prado,
the Reina Sofia, the Cathedral of Seville, and the
Thyssen-Bornemisza, it was a welcome pleasure to view them here in
New York in the Guggenheim’s inspired setting and in this unique
arrangement that melds the centuries in its evocation of the Spanish
“El Greco to Picasso” runs until March 28, 2007
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York City
Curators: Carmen Giménez and Francisco Calvo
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Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Gemäldegalerie
(Cruz) and Private collection, Courtesy Galerie Jan Krugier,
Ditesheim & Cie, Geneva Picasso © Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artist
Rights Society (ARS), New York (Picasso)
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About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights
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