‘El Greco to Goya’: The Wallace Collection and The Bowes Museum bring to London one of the largest collections of Spanish art in Britain.

by Brit Es Magazine

In September 2017, the Wallace Collection presents “El Greco to Goya – Spanish Masterpieces”, the first London exhibition of Spanish art from The Bowes Museum in County Durham, including works by Goya and El Greco.

Jose Antolinez The Immaculate Conception, 1650-75 ©The Bowes Museum

Jose Antolinez ‘The Immaculate Conception’, 1650-75 ©The Bowes Museum

This collaborative exhibition between the Wallace Collection and The Bowes Museum celebrates the partnership between these two great museums. Like the Wallace Collection, The Bowes Museum is the product of one family’s obsession with collecting great works of art. John Bowes and Richard Wallace – both illegitimate sons of aristocratic fathers – bequeathed collections of international significance to the nation.

The exhibition spans three centuries and explores one of the largest collections of Spanish art in Britain. The majority of these paintings were acquired by John and Joséphine Bowes between 1862 and 1863 from the collection of the Countess de Quinto in Paris, through the art dealer Benjamin Gogué. This collection was largely formed in Spain by the Conde de Quinto after the dissolution of the ecclesiastical institutions – known as the Desamortización – carried out by the Spanish government from 1835 to 1837.

On display are El Greco’s The Tears of Saint Peter, thought to be the artist’s earliest interpretation of this subject, Goya’s psychologically penetrating Portrait of Juan Antonio Meléndez Valdés and disturbing Interior of a Prison, plus perhaps less well known but outstanding works such as Antonio de Pereda’s, Tobias Restoring his Father’s Sight. The works chosen explore a period of huge social, religious and political upheaval in Spain, providing a microcosm of the changes in style and subject matter during this period. The paintings complement works by Velázquez and Murillo on permanent display at the Wallace Collection.

Antonio Pereda y Salgado 'Tobias Restoring his Father’s Sight', 1652 ©The Bowes Museum

Antonio Pereda y Salgado ‘Tobias Restoring his Father’s Sight’, 1652 ©The Bowes Museum

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive education and events programme, including an expansion of our flagship ‘Out of the Frame’ programme that connects residential care homes, day centres and supported housing units to their local museum, using art as a stimulus for reminiscence and discussion. These sessions bring the museum into the lives of people who often can no longer visit museums and galleries.

The Wallace Collection’s Director, Dr Xavier Bray, says:

“El Greco to Goya is not only an unprecedented opportunity to see Spanish art of extraordinary power and significance in London, but also the beginning of an exciting relationship between the Wallace Collection and The Bowes Museum. Both institutions share a commitment to making great art accessible to wider audiences and we are looking forward to working closely together to develop a long term connection between London and the North East.”

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco. 'The Tears of St Peter', 1580-89 © The Bowes Museum

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco. ‘The Tears of St Peter’, 1580-89 © The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum’s Director, Adrian Jenkins, says:

“In 1892, when The Bowes Museum first opened its doors to the public, it had the largest public collection of Spanish paintings in the UK. As we mark 125 years since the creation of the museum, it is highly appropriate that the key works from this collection should be shared with London audiences, in keeping with John and Joséphine Bowes’ belief that great art should be made accessible to all. Neither John nor Joséphine Bowes survived to realise their vision, and they would be delighted to think that the best of their acquisitions would be shown at the Wallace Collection during this anniversary year, recognising that their gift to the people of County Durham is also a gift to the nation.”

EL GRECO TO GOYA, Spanish Masterpieces from the Bowes Museum.  27 Septiembre 2017 – 7 January 2018 at Wallace Collection (London)

Free admission: wallacecollection.org / @WallaceMuseum / #ElGrecotoGoya

All images © The Bowes Museum

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