A rare portrait of influential American merchant and naval agent Richard Worsam Meade – the first major collector of Spanish art in the U.S. – has been put on display to the public in its new home at SMU’s Meadows Museum.
On May 10, 2011, the museum unveiled the 1815 oil-on-canvas masterwork by Vicente López, one of the most significant painters of the Spanish Enlightenment. Acquired with the support of six donors from the Dallas community, the unpublished painting will add depth to the museum’s holdings of work by this celebrated court painter – as well as provide insight into a legendary American family.
Meade was the son of the Philadelphia Revolutionary George Meade, and his son, George Gordon Meade – better known as General Meade – went on to defeat Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. Around 1800, Richard Worsam Meade moved his export business to the port city of Cádiz, Spain, where he began to collect paintings as currency for debts. It was there that Meade developed one of the most outstanding private collections of Spanish art, including paintings by Titian, Correggio, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck and Velázquez, and became the first American collector known to have owned a painting by Murillo.
“Meade could in many ways be considered the earliest predecessor of our museum’s founder, Algur H. Meadows,” said Meadows Museum Director Mark Roglán. “Both men were influential American entrepreneurs who, in the course of their business abroad in Spain, developed a passion for the country’s art, ultimately creating a new audience for it back home.
“This exceptional painting will be the first portrait of an American painted by a Spanish painter to enter our collection, and it is fitting that the subject is someone who shares a legacy with our founding patron.”
The painting will be included in the upcoming exhibition Meadows Collects: Ten Years, Ten Works, which will open in Fall 2011. The exhibition will feature the 10 most significant works the Meadows has acquired over the past decade, and will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their current home, which was funded by The Meadows Foundation.
The painting was purchased through funds provided by Linda P. and William A. Custard; Jack and Gloria Hammack; Richard and Gwen S. Irwin; Natalie H. and George T. Lee, Jr.; Mildred M. Oppenheimer; and Catherine B. Taylor. These gifts are eligible for a $5 million matching challenge grant by The Meadows Foundation for the acquisition of Spanish art to enhance the Museum’s permanent collection.