Basking in the light: The Golden Age of Spain
Earlier this summer, the San Diego Museum of Art proudly debuted its latest exhibition Art and Empire: The Golden Age of Spain at their Culture and Cocktail event to a roaring crowd. With attendees oozing through the throngs of art enthusiasts, there were custom cocktails, living angel photo booths, special choral performances by SACRA/PROFANA, and a paella food truck parked at the steps of the museum. “Artists featured in the exhibition include Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Francisco de Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera, El Greco, Juan de Valdés Leal, Juan Sánchez Cotán, and many more. This exhibition also marks the first time since the 1935 exhibition for the California Pacific International Exposition that all five of the Spanish masters represented on the Museum’s building façade—Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, Ribera and El Greco—will be shown together at the Museum.” -SDMA
It cannot be understated that the show itself is a wonderful exhibition of European Old Masters both from the museum's collection and those on loan from around the world. For San Diego residents, this is an exceptional opportunity to view gems of the Old World and learn a bit more about the history of the Spanish region along the way. Focusing on the expansion and territorial reign during Spain’s Golden Age, this exhibition further explores the relationship between the conquering nation and their permeating influence on artistic expression throughout the world at that time. Old Master artworks that evoke the eccliesiastical period of Western art, telling the story of a pious country that began to engage with cultures from far flung places of the world. If you are not an Old master specialist but still would like to enjoy the exhibition, take note from an expert and simply “appreciate the painting for its intrinsic qualities and beauty”, spend time with the art and really investigate what is occuring in each piece. Artworks such as these were made for long periods of exposure and closer inspection. Each comes with an unspoken understanding that they are laden with symbolism and subtly inlaid meanings, thusly requiring a long, closer view.
One of my favorite pieces to see was an artwork by the prolific female painter, Sofonisba Anguissola, “Portrait of a Spanish Prince (probably Philip II)” c.1563. The details and exceptional quality of the artwork make the most muted of segments strike in the heart of each viewer a sense of awe. Although there is more than enough enticing art on view, a visit to the room showcasing artworks by contemporary Spanish artist José-María Cano is well worth the short foray into modernity. Featuring a group of 12 “portraits” these works were created in response to the corresponding Spanish Old Master exhibition. Through his artistic interpretation on the “apostolate,” José-María Cano cites the significance of the number twelve: “as the twelve tribes of Israel and the zodiac signs. Twelve is not just any number. It relates the sun, the moon and the Earth. It is the number of lunar cycles that occurs when the Earth goes around the sun.” The result is a haunting series that showcase the artist’s connection with both his subject matter and the viewer. Cano’s work will be on view in Gallery 20 a bit longer than the main exhibition, so if you don’t make it before the Art and Empire exhibition closes, fret not! You can visit the Cano segment until November 11, 2019.
Engaging visitors of all ages, the museum will be offering additional programming that will include symposiums, workshops, and live performances throughout the summer season. The exhibition will conclude in September, so there will be plenty of time to attend an event and take in the art more than once.
Article. “How to look at Old Master Paintings”: https://www.sothebysinstitute.com/news-and-events/news/how-to-look-at-old-masters-paintings/
San Diego Museum of Art
1450 El Prado, Balboa Park
Exhibition on view: May 18 through September 2, 2019.
Ticket information: Due to the staff and logistics necessary for these installations, there is an additional charge ($5) for nonmembers, ages 7+. Members receive free admission.