En este artículo se cita a la jefa/dueña del MAP, quien asegura que Flaming June jamás será vendida porque hoy en día forma parte de nuestra cultura. Confiamos que este dato sea cierto, uno nunca sabe después de la venta de Cemento Ponce y el Nuevo Día. Lo que nos pone mal es que se describa a la isla como una canto de tierra desconocido en medio del Caribe, y al Museo como una galería oscura en un pueblo metraya. El MAP es un Museo de categoria internacional, de eso no hya duda, pero el atrevimiento de parte de estos reporteros nos lleva una vez más a cuestionar los métodos de promoción del MAP, que por lo visto, necesitan un upgrade. Y es obvio que Londres quiere sus obras maestras de vuelta y estos artículos denigrantes y amarillistas con nuestro pueblo forman parte de la campaña para recuperarlas.
Pre-Raphaelites from Puerto Rico
How did dozens of fabulous British works of art, most of them Pre-Raphaelites, end up in an obscure museum on a Caribbean island? As two of them go on display in London, Alastair Sooke tells their fascinating story
On the day before he died of a heart attack in 1898, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was busy at work on The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon, a massive oil painting inspired by Malory in which a mortally wounded King Arthur is laid out on a bier.
The artist had been working for 17 years on his unfinished magnum opus, which had been commissioned in 1881 by George Howard, later ninth Earl of Carlisle, for the library at Naworth Castle in Cumberland.
But that was not where the painting ended up. For the past 45 years, the 21ft by 9ft canvas has hung in an obscure museum in the crumbling colonial town of Ponce on the south coast of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.
How on earth did Arthur in Avalon, which is currently on loan to Tate Britain, find its way to the Caribbean? And why did nearly 70 other British works of art, predominantly by Pre-Raphaelite artists, end up in the same collection?
The answer is that a far-sighted Puerto Rican industrialist, politician and philanthropist called Luis Antonio Ferré avidly collected Victorian works. In 1963, he bought Arthur in Avalon for 1,600 guineas at Christie's. In the same year, he also acquired Sir Frederic Leighton's voluptuous 1895 painting Flaming June, also on loan to Tate Britain.
Known as the "Mona Lisa of the western hemisphere", the painting has long been coveted by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a keen collector of Victorian art, who came across it on sale for £50 in the Sixties but could not persuade anyone to loan him the money to buy it. Lloyd Webber reportedly offered Ferré £6 million for the painting in 1996, but was turned down. He was not the only collector to be rebuffed: before his death, aged 99, in 2003, Ferré received more than 50 offers for the work.
Ferré, who made his fortune selling cement and was venerated by his compatriots as "Don Luis", served as governor of Puerto Rico between 1969 and 1972. He bought Arthur in Avalon and Flaming June as the crown jewels of a new museum in his home town of Ponce. The first stone of a stunning white modernist building, designed by celebrated American architect Edward Durell Stone, was placed in 1964, and the Museo de Arte de Ponce was officially inaugurated the following year.
Ferré had dreamed of founding a museum since the Fifties, when he travelled to Europe and began to collect minor Old Master paintings under the guidance of Dr Julius Held, a Rubens specialist and professor of art history at Columbia University in New York. Working on a limited budget, he targeted unfashionable pictures, and collected pieces representing every major school of Western art. "The scholars and critics all called it kitsch," he recalled in 1993, referring to his extensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings. "Everyone thought I was crazy to buy them."
Today the museum boasts more than 3,000 pieces, including examples of Italian Baroque, Spanish Golden Age and contemporary Latin-American art, distributed across 14 galleries. The distinctive hexagonal shape of the galleries allows natural light to flood every corner, and was Ferré's idea.
Every year, hundreds of people visit the museum, which is currently closed for extensive renovation to repair damage caused by hurricanes during the Nineties. But collectors hoping to persuade its trustees to part permanently with its treasures should not hold their breath. At a press conference on Tuesday, María Luisa Ferré, the collector's granddaughter, told the Telegraph: "These paintings now are part of our culture. They belong to us."
'The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon' and 'Flaming June' are on display at Tate Britain, London SW1 (020 7887 8888), until Feb 1, 2009.
Este artículo es interesante, a pesar de los flamboyantes estereotipos a los que se aferra el escritor. Gracias a un colaborador del Box por el enlace.
King Arthur comes home
Published 14 April 2008
How a key Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painting by Edward Burne-Jones ended up on a Caribbean island
Name any major artist you can think of and the chances are their work is spread across the globe.
But the curious story of how the final and, arguably, greatest work by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones found itself in an obscure Caribbean art gallery enticed me to visit Puerto Rico to find out more and to make a documentary about it for Radio 4.
Over the past 45 years The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon has been a centrepiece of a collection of English and European master works that date right back to the middle ages and which have all been selected to live in a beautiful white modernist gallery that perches on the south coast of the island.
Burne-Jones's enormous painting, which shows the mortally wounded King Arthur with his head resting on the lap of Queen Morgan le Faye and surrounded by other beautiful women as they wait to see if he will awake, left Britain in 1963 when it was auctioned at Christies’ and bought by Puerto Rican Industrialist, philanthropist and politician, Don Luis Ferre, for his new gallery the Museo d’arte de Ponce.
To find a painting like this in a small Carribean town is bizarre to say the least.
Don Luis Ferre, who collected the works together, was a native of Ponce. He trained as an engineer and a bridge builder who (and) worked for his father in the Porto Rico Iron Works.
In the 1950s the island’s traditionally rural, agrarian market was transformed into to an urban, industrial economy, thanks largely to the ambitious US government-sponsored factory program Operation Bootstrap (“Operación Manos a la Obra”).
But while the Ferré family's new business - Ponce Cement - benefited from the government initiative. Many of the islanders didn’t and Ferré sensed that the island’s new ideology lacked a vital, spiritual dimension for the Puerto Rican people.
He decided beauty - that “essence of life” capable of elevating and enriching the human soul - was the answer to Puerto Rico’s problems. So in 1956, guided by Julius S. Held, a Rubens specialist and professor of art history at Columbia University, Ferré started collecting works of art, bringing them to the island and making them available for all the people to enjoy.
In global art terms Ferré and Held were working on a limited budget but they still targeted works from every major school of Western art. They often acquired unfashionable and underrated pictures, focussing instead on the quality and the look of the piece rather than its ‘fashion’ in the market. As Held wrote in a letter to Ferre:
“After all, what you are building up is not meant to appeal only to the taste of 1959, or not even of 1969. A museum is built for the centuries, and as long as we do not let down our standards of quality, we will come out all right, because tastes and fashions change.”
Today, as the King Arthur painting heads back home for a special exhibition at Tate Britain, Puerto Rico is an in-between place.
In the same year as Edward Burne-Jones died, leaving his Arthur painting unfinished and unwanted by Britain, the Spanish American war resulted in the ejection of Spain from Puerto Rico and the colonisation of the island by America. Since then its fortunes have been very mixed as the island has tried to find a place and an identity in the global economy. Currently its status is that of American Commonwealth: neither independent nor a full American state. Everything it does goes through the US but it has no one to represent its interests in Congress.
Ponce itself is a very poor decaying colonial town without much hope for improvement in the near future. Industrialisation hasn't really worked and the pharmaceutical companies, which have kept the economy going in more recent years, are moving out and going to countries where labour is even cheaper. But despite all this hundreds of people come to Ponce every year to visit the gallery and when they come they spend money in the town. Tastes have indeed changed since its opening in 1959, and many trends have worked in the museum’s favour as the works are sought for loan by galleries all round the world, every painting that goes on loan to another country takes the name of the town and the Island with it.
I think that if he could look down from wherever he is now, Don Louis Ferre would be very pleased with the way the gallery is continuing to use Art as a bridge, to reach out to the rest of the world in order to help the economy and enrich the lives of the people of Puerto Rico.
The Return of King Arthur is a Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4 and will be broadcast at 1100 BST on Monday 14 April. The exhibition, Edward Burne-Jones: The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon opens at Tate Britain on Tuesday 15 April.
*Gracias Luis Manuel Rodríguez por la información.
ART: FRANCISCO OLLER, PUERTO RICO GLIMPSED
By VIVIEN RAYNOR
Published: February 10, 1984
RETRIEVING artists from oblivion, like taking in stray animals, is an activity fraught with emotion. The scholars who do it commonly grow so close to their charges as to become one with them and, when politics enters the picture, objectivity becomes virtually impossible for all concerned.
This is pretty much the situation with the art of Francisco Oller (1833- 1917), a painter who spent his life toing and froing between his native Puerto Rico and Europe, and who, though exercised by social conditions in his own country, was not above personal opportunism. He makes, nevertheless, an effective symbol for the struggles of all small countries for a sense of national identity, and the 50 or so canvases on view at El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue, between 104th and 105th Streets, should be of interest to everyone.
The spirit in which the show was organized by the Ponce Art Museum of Puerto Rico is by no means chauvinistic. Oller is treated not as a genius but as a remarkable manifestation of talent and ambition in an out-of-the- way place. This retrospective, the most exhaustive examination of his work to date, is also the most important show yet to appear at El Museo del Barrio, where it will remain, thanks to aid from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, through March 18. It then goes to the Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Mass.
The book accompanying the show is almost worthy of Manet, Oller's senior by a year, being a fully illustrated paperback with six essays on the artist, a catalogue and a substantial bibliography, as well as notes on the restoration of several canvases ($20). But as already indicated Oller was no Manet, and though billed as a Realist- Impressionist, no more qualifies for the second half of the title than do numerous other New World painters who aspired to it. But such evaluation seems beside the point, given the oddness of his personal story.
This begins in San Juan, where Oller was born in evidently comfortable circumstances. By the age of 14, he was skilled enough to copy a portrait of his grandfather by Jose Campeche in a way that would have done justice to fully trained artists two or three times his age. After leaving school, he worked as a clerk in the Treasury until some caricatures he did of his superiors got him dismissed. The same drawings, though, prompted the island's governor to offer him an allowance to study in Rome. Oller's mother declined on account of her son's age, 15, and it was not until three years later that he was able to leave Puerto Rico - for Madrid. Studying there for two years, he returned to some acclaim, but was soon off again, this time for Paris. There, he enrolled first at Thomas Couture's studio, where he probably encountered Manet and other French masters-to-be, and then at Gleyre's Academy, where his classmates would have included Renoir and Monet.
There are many ''probablys'' in the biography for, long and arduously as the Ponce curators have worked, their project is still rife with dead ends and missing pieces. It's certain, however, that the painter was friends with Pissarro and, for a while, Cezanne, and if the interpretation of a letter by Antoine Guillemet is right, had Cezanne for a pupil.
There were more trips to Europe, some lengthy, but they didn't deter the artist from producing numerous paintings - portraits, official and otherwise, landscapes and genre pieces - and a book on perspective, and seemingly, he was forever opening art schools in Puerto Rico. This was the pattern of his existence until 1896, when he settled for good in his own land, painting, teaching and, after 1898, adapting to life under an American administration, which included suggesting to the city of Ponce that it exchange his portraits of Spanish dignitaries, which it held, for his new likeness of George Washington.
With so many Ollers lost or damaged beyond repair, the retrospective can't be counted complete, nor can the 50 works in it always be aligned with the facts of the artist's life. All the same, the effect of his early and middle years in Madrid are visible in, respectively, a small but arresting study of a female matador in action against palm trees and a gorgeous portrait of a woman, Carmen Alonso. With its dark background setting off a muted red dress and a pale face with the most beautifully characterized mouth, this seems the best picture in the show, although the sparkling still lifes a la Courbet, such as one of bananas, cashews, a pitcher and a glass, are also worth noting.
The magnum opus, though, is ''The Wake,'' an awful but fascinating work that was shown in the Paris Salon of 1895. It measures 8 feet by 13 feet and depicts a ritual that, says the catalogue, has antecedents in medieval Europe as well as in Africa. Set in a wooden hut, the scene is of a Hogarthian crowd gathered around the corpse of a small child. Most of the figures are either carousing or lusting after a roast pig being borne in on a spike; only an old tattered black man is paying respect to the dead. It is strange that the preliminary sketches for the work should be so much better, and stranger still that the artist soon after moved as close as he ever would to Impressionism in some French landscapes. Like so many would-be Impressionists, he affected the brush stroke - in this case, influenced by Pissarro in his Pointillist period - without coming to grips with the color and compositional ideas that went with it. It is hardly remarkable that Oller seems more at ease depicting Puerto Rican landscapes in a style that could be called Barbizon-tropical.
If the artist hadn't fallen out with Cezanne (because of his own arrogance, it is said), he might have learned from him that art is not something accomplished on the run.