The largest traveling exhibition the Prado has undertaken since it opened in 1812, Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado begins its exclusive two-venue tour at the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia before heading to the MFAH for a Dec. 16 opening. Houston will be the only place in the United States the exhibit is shown.
"Although the museum has cooperated with the Prado in the past — we are currently lending them a Murillo — this is the first time the Prado has ever lent anything like this number of works to any museum in the United States," MFAH director Gary Tinterow told CultureMap in an email. "This is an enormous coup for our country, our state and our city.
"The exhibition will provide the opportunity to see the Spanish school of painting in all its glory, while reflecting the history of modern Spain, the monarchy, the church and civil society."
BBVA Compass is sponsoring the exhibit, a crucial assist considering that the Prado (like other museums have in the past) is charging a fee to let its rare works travel.
The largest traveling exhibition the Prado has undertaken since it opened in 1812, Portrait of Spain begins its exclusive two-venue tour in Australia before heading to the MFAH for a December opening.
Charting a course through four centuries of Spanish painting, the three-part exhibition opens with a look at work produced during the nation's imperial golden age (1550-1770), a time when Spain was ruled by the expansionist Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties and laid claim to much of the Americas, including a colonial province known as Tejas.
Works by El Greco and Diego del Velázquez — as well as those by Titian and Rubens, who worked for the Spanish court — illustrate a culture awash in Enlightenment values and at its peak of global influence.
Section two (1770-1850) examines the artistic output of a nation at war, starting with the influences of the French Revolution and progressing to Napeolon's invasion of Spain and the ensuing decades of civil war.
At the forefront of this unpredictable era was Francisco de Goya, a painter to the royal courts, who would go on to capture the emotional devastation of Spain's descent into war with three series of widely-circulated prints: Los Caprichos, Los Disparates and Los Desastres de la Guerra. Selections from each will be on display.
The exhibit concludes with a look at Spanish art from the second half of the 19th century, as painters like Federico de Madrazo, Eduardo Rosales and Joaquín Sorolla explore the emerging notions of nationalism and realism.
Portrait of Spain will be on view at the MFAH's Beck Building from Dec. 16 through March 31, 2013.