When revered Spanish painter Francisco Goya was 81, he went to Madrid to do a portrait of Mariano Goya, his only grandson. Francisco had painted Mariano many times and thought that the boy had a bright future. But he didn’t. The last male member of the Goya family, Mariano never took up a profession, sold his grandfather’s paintings to pay debts, and lived in seclusion in a mountain village, La Cabrera. The portrait of 20-year-old Mariano that faithfully showed the scar on his cheek became one of Goya’s last. The inscription on its back, “Goya, to his grandson, in 1827….” remained hidden beneath a 2nd canvas and was reportedly discovered in 2013. The Meadows Museum, where Ruth sat for a very long time staring at Mariano, bought his portrait in anticipation of its 50th anniversary in 2015.
Oilman Algur H. Meadows was working in Spain in the 1950s. Based in Madrid, he spent his free time in the famous Prado Museum and grew to admire its vast collection. He decided to start his own. In 1968, he told the Houston Chronicle that his goal was “to build a small Prado in Texas”. He succeeded.
Meadows gave money to Southern Methodist University to erect the Prado on the Prairie for his collection, and the Meadows Museum opened in 1965. It’s at 5900 Bishop Boulevard on the SMU campus in the Dallas area and has grown into one of the largest collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. I was impressed by the number of new acquisitions hanging in its Upper Galleries. There is, of course, a bullfighter. There are many saints, lots of religious ecstasy, and royalty. The collection ranges from the 10th to the 20th century and contains many masterpieces by recognizable names–Velasquez, Picasso, etc.–but its permanent collection’s basic focus is on Spain’s “Golden Age”, the 1550s to the early 18th century.
When Ruth and I were in Madrid a few years ago, we were very lucky to see a temporary exhibit that paired American artist John Singer Sargent with a Spaniard we had not heard of, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. The combo worked. If you’ve never met Sorolla, who died in 1923, let me introduce you to one of the great artists. Thanks to the Meadows, I know that Sorolla, who was Sargent’s equal in talent, considered Sargent the best American painter of the age.
Beginning on December 13, 2013, the Meadows will host an exhibition it has organized with the San Diego Museum of Art called Sorolla and America. Containing 160 works, the largest assemblage of his paintings in the U.S. since he visited over 100 years ago, it’ll be hanging around until April 19, 2014, and will fill the Meadows’ entire Upper Gallery. In 1909 and 1911 there were major Sorolla exhibits in New York and Chicago, and many of those works will be together again at the Meadows for the first time since then. In 1909 Sorolla went to the White House and did a portrait of President Taft for which he received $3,000 and dinner. He also went to Long Island and painted Louis Comfort Tiffany.
My favorite Sorollas are full of light and color and of children playing on beaches. Sorolla In America, hopefully, will display some. The show’s being curated by his great-granddaughter Blanca Pons-Sorolla, who clearly didn’t go in the direction of Goya’s grandson.