- Posted by membership
- On March 28, 2023
BritishSpanish Society members gathered at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, on Friday, 17th March, for a guided tour of the exhibition Spain and the Hispanic World – Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library. A selection of 150 fascinating works from this very extensive collection of Spanish art, founded by the American philanthropist Archer Huntington in 1904, is presented here for the first time in the UK.
Huntington’s eclectic vision of what constitutes culture is evident in the remarkable range of works on display: sculptures, paintings, silk textiles, ceramics, lusterware, silverwork, precious jewellery, maps, drawings, illuminated manuscripts and decorative lacquerware. The quality of all the objects presented is exceptional.
The exhibition delivers on every level in presenting the chronology of Spain’s remarkable diversity of cultures and religions across four millennia – from Celtic to Islamic, Jewish and Christian. Ceramic bowls made around 2400 – 1900 BC kick off the exhibition; Celtiberian culture is next in line with jewellery from the Palencia Hoard; the art of Islamic Spain includes the most luxurious, so-called Alhambra Silk (c. 1400), as well as beautifully decorated ceramics; covering Spain’s ‘Golden Age’ in the 16th and 17th centuries are masterpieces by El Greco and Velázquez; religious paintings, sculpture and other objects from across Colonial Latin America highlight both the resourcefulness and expertise of local artists; Goya’s iconic The Duchess of Alba (1797) is mesmerising; the various cultural and political dynamics that arose in forging Spain’s national identity during the early twentieth century are reflected in the contrast between the sunlit world of Sorolla and somewhat darker vision of Zuluoga; the exhibition fittingly concludes with the first view of Sorolla’s epic mural, Vision of Spain, painted in the early 20th century, depicting a large panorama of Castile. Needless to say, these examples only highlight a fraction of what is on offer.
This exhibition captures the endlessly fascinating, varied and rich landscape of Hispanic culture and one cannot help but be enriched by the experience. Constant interaction throughout the tour with our guide, the hugely informative Hispanist and art historian Gijs van Hensbergen, attests to the calibre of this exhibition, and it was a perfect antidote to a typically dull, wet London morning! It ends on the 10th April and I would urge anyone who is interested in any part of Hispanic culture not to miss it.