The MFAH Will Play Host to The Prado, One of Europe's Most Renowned Art Museums

In December of last year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston appointed internationally recognized curator and scholar Gary Tinterow as its new director. A year later, he has secured an exhibition loan from one of the most magnificent European museums. Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado will visit Houston this December.

This is the largest international loan the Prado has undertaken since it opened in 1812, and this exhibition is creating quite a lot of excitement among the curators at the MFAH. I spoke to curator of European Art at the MFA Edgar Peters Bowron, who let me in on some of the highlights to expect:

One of the highlights is that we will have an entire room full of Goya prints, from three of his series: The Caprices,The Disasters of Warand The Follies, or Proverbs. As well, there are a lot of paintings by artists who fall a little below the radar. The intent was to present a portrait of paintings of Spain. So you get some wonderful 19th-century landscapes by artists we are completely unfamiliar with, as well as some historical painters. The highlight is really its totality as a representation of the Spanish period of painting through the 16th to 19th century.

The Prado in Madrid is one of the most renowned museums in Europe, on par with the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London. Its collection of European masters is one of the greatest in the world. No doubt helped by Tinterow's enviable connections -- before coming here, he had a distinguished career spanning three decades at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York -- the show is a coup for Houston, with more than 100 of the Prado's works on view.

This is an exclusive tour with only two destinations -- Queensland Art Gallery in Australia and the MFAH in Houston. It's a major achievement for the MFAH, as Houston will be the only place in the United States this exhibit of Spanish Renaissance masters is shown.

Portrait of Spain is composed of 100 masterpieces from Spanish artists such as El Greco, Diego del Velázquez and Francisco de Goya. Italian masters who worked for the Spanish Court, such as Ruben and Titian, are also represented.

The exhibit spans four centuries of Spanish painting organized into three distinct sections. Viewers will begin their journey through time in "1550-1770: Painting in an Absolutist State," featuring court life under Habsburg (1516-1700) and Bourbon (1700-1808) rule. Section two is "1770-1850: A Changing World," a turbulent time of war captured evocatively by Francisco de Goya. And section three, "1850-1900: The Threshold of Modern Spain" offers us hope once more. The works of Federico de Madrazo and Joaquín Sorolla show the burgeoning emergence of a new, modern national identity.

This exhibit grants viewers an opportunity to see famous works by El Greco, the Spanish Renaissance painter who honored color and imagination over the formal aspects of classicism. There's also work by Diego del Velázquez, a Court artist famed for his sculptural portraits and depiction of light -- not unlike Northern artists such as Jan Van Eyck. Then there is Francisco de Goya, the artist at the forefront of the unpredictable era of war. The room dedicated to Goya's The Disasters of War will be an exceptional centerpiece for what promises to be a great exhibition.

The MFAH has yet to finalize plans for the events to be held to enhance viewers' appreciation of the collection. However, the museum has confirmed that as well as the usual audio tours and lectures they are keen to incorporate some of the success they have had recently with their High Tea tours and Tea Ceremonies that complemented the recent Treasures of Kenwood House and Unrivaled Splendor exhibitions. A concert sponsored by the Houston Friends of Chamber Music is also planned. The cellist Lachezar Kostov and pianist Viktor Valkov are set to perform a duo inspired by the Spanish collection.

For information about the exhibition, visit

To read more about the Prado, visit www.museodelprado.

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Emma Catherwood
Contact: Emma Catherwood