Sleeping Beauty: Victorian Painting from the Museo de Arte, Ponce Opens at Museo del Prado

Edward Coley Burne-Jones, The Prince enters the Forest. Oil on canvas, 60 x 127.5 cm. Museo de Arte de Ponce, Fundación Luis A. Ferré, Inc. Ponce, Puerto Rico

For the first time in Spain the Museo del Prado is presenting a selection of 19th-century English paintings from the Museo de Arte in Ponce. Entitled The Sleeping Beauty. Victorian Painting from the Museo de Arte, Ponce, the exhibition offers the visiting public a unique opportunity to see works of the stature of Flaming June by Frederic, Lord Leighton and Edward Burne-Jones’ monumental masterpiece, The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon.

For historical reasons, 19th-century British art is one of the least well represented areas in Spanish collections, including that of the Prado, which has very few examples of Victorian painting. For this reason the Museo del Prado has decided to organise the present exhibition, which offers a carefully chosen selection of English paintings. They are loaned by the Museo de Arte in Ponce, Puerto Rico, which is temporarily closed for re-modelling, and include The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon by Edward Burne-Jones, and Flaming June by Frederic, Lord Leighton. Both paintings will travel to the Prado after their display at Tate Britain.

The exhibition comprises 17 works in total, of which 10 are paintings and 6 are drawings and a watercolour. It will allow the public to become acquainted with both 19th-century English painting and with highlights of the museum founded in Ponce.

The exhibition also includes paintings by artists such as John Everett Millais (1829-1896), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Thomas Seddon (1821-1856) and William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). They were painted during the various different phases of the movement known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which was founded in 1848 with the initial aim of reforming English painting, at that date governed by the conservative strictures of the Royal Academy. The Pre-Raphaelites based themselves on a new vision of nature and on their quest to rediscover the aesthetic innocence of the Early Renaissance painters.

Among the outstanding works to be seen in the exhibition is Burne-Jones’ masterpiece, The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon. Prior to being seen at Tate Britain it has remained in Puerto Rico since Luis Ferré acquired it in the 1960s due to its importance for his collection and the difficulties involved in transporting a work that measures more than 6 metres wide. Burne-Jones devoted the last years of his life to this painting, which reflects his fascination (shared with fellow artists such as Rossetti and William Morris) for the legend of King Arthur. He constantly re-worked the composition up to the day before his death. Exhibited alongside this great work is a series of preliminary sketches and preparatory drawings that will help the visitor to appreciate the evolution of this dreamlike image.

The exhibition includes outstanding examples of works by the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Miss Gladys M. Holman Hunt by William Holman Hunt, the artist who remained most faithful throughout his career to the group’s motto of “Truth to Nature”; Escape of the Heretic, 1559 by John Everett Millais, which is a characteristic example of the use of imaginary anecdotes as a means of expressing universal human sentiments; and The Roman Widow by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a work that forms part of a lengthy series of enigmatic, half-length female portraits that were in part influenced by the Venetian Renaissance portrait.

The Museo de Arte de Ponce (MAP)
The Museo de Arte de Ponce was founded in 1959 by Luis A. Ferré (1904-2003), a leading figure in the economic, political and cultural life of Puerto Rico and a great lover of music and the arts.

The Museum became an important centre for European culture in the Caribbean and at the time of its opening presented a comprehensive survey of Western art organised by schools (Italian, Dutch, Flemish, Spanish, English, French, North American and Puerto Rican), with the European holdings constituting the core of the collection.

In 1963 Ferré acquired one of the collection’s great masterpieces of British painting, Burne-Jones’s The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon, a monumental reflection on Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. He also acquired Flaming June by Frederic Lord Leighton, a homage to beauty and the Museum’s most famous painting.

The collection of the Museo de Arte de Ponce now numbers around 3,800 works spanning the 14th to the 21st centuries and includes examples of Italian and Spanish Baroque art, Pre-Raphaelite painting and contemporary Latin American work.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 by Millais, Hunt and Rossetti. It arose in opposition to the conservative, academic approach of the Royal Academy of Arts, which upheld the pictorial methods of the 16th-century Italian Renaissance, and to the clichéd nature of Victorian art. The Brotherhood aimed to return to a more spontaneous approach inspired by nature and by the technique and symbolism of the Italian and Flemish Primitive painters.

Anticipating the precepts of later, innovative movements such as Art Nouveau, the Brotherhood’s works are enveloped in a literary atmosphere, depicting historical, social and religious subjects in a modern manner in their quest for a mystical and spiritual mode that would express purity of sentiment.

Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 7:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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