Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III

Philip II was the mighty monarch who consolidated the Spanish Empire. Philip IV was the king immortalized by his court painter Diego Velázquez. And Philip III? Nothing special. He loved God and the good life, not necessarily in that order, and left a lot of the important decisions to his chief adviser, the Duke of Lerma. But during his reign Spanish painting arrived at that blend of realism and visual drama that would culminate in Velázquez. Philip took the throne when El Greco was still launching his thunderbolts, and a bunch of them opened this show with a bang. But some of the most interesting canvases were by lesser-known artists, like Juan Bautista Maino, who were giving a Spanish accent to the Italian Baroque — or Juan Sánchez Cotan, whose almost Surreal pictures of vegetables hanging from strings in bright light against black backgrounds are too strange for any art historical categories to account for them.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (4/20 – 7/27) and Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University (8/21 – 11/9)