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Americans in Spain: Painting and Travel, 1820-1920

Americans in Spain: Painting and Travel, 1820-1920 will explore a pivotal moment, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when American artists and their European counterparts flocked to Spain to capture its scenic charms and seemingly exotic customs. Co-organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Milwaukee Art Museum, the exhibition is developed around each institution’s unique collection of American and old master paintings. The show will feature works by Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, John Singer Sargent, and others alongside their Spanish contemporaries and the country’s Old Masters.

Americans in Spain will examine the widespread influence of Spanish art and culture on American painting. For many artists, particularly in the second half of the nineteenth century, Spain was a requisite stop on their European tour. A large number of America’s most prominent artists—many of them establishing their artistic footing—traveled to the country for training and to study its Old Masters at the Prado Museum. They, in turn, absorbed and translated into their own work Spanish subjects and styles. While a few books and catalogues have been devoted to American artists’ experience in (and fascination with) Spain, the subject has been given far less treatment than other aspects of the grand tour. Americans in Spain will be the first exhibition to present this important period of American art to a wide audience, and it will expand on previous studies by emphasizing a focused range of topics: Spain’s Islamic culture, the country’s economic and political situation and international status at the time, the impact of Spain’s painters on American artists, the Prado Museum as a center of study, and the critical and popular reception of these American painters’ Spanish works.

The exhibition will present more than seventy paintings alongside nineteenth-century photographs, prints, and travel guides. The works on view come from a wide range of national and international collections including the Prado Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Musée d’Orsay; Getty Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Victoria and Albert Museum; and others as well as a newly discovered painting by Mary Cassatt from a Madrid private collection never before shown in the United States.

Americans in Spain: Painting and Travel, 1820-1920