The young man with bright dark eyes bears an almost ethereal quality as he stares at viewers from the canvas. In “The Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist’s Grandson,” Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes communicates his deep love for his grandson. Painted in 1827, the portrait had not been on display for more than 40 years. It now sits as a centerpiece to an exhibit of Goya prints at SMU’s Meadows Museum through March 1, 2015.
SMU acquired the painting in 2013 through funding from The Meadows Foundation and a gift from Mrs. Eugene McDermott in honor of the museum’s 50th anniversary in 2015. “Portrait of Mariano Goya” is a significant addition to the museum’s five other paintings by the artist. “The work stands at the pivotal last phase of Goya’s career and will serve as a linchpin in our growing collection,” says Mark A. Roglán, the Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum and Centennial Chair in Meadows School of the Arts.
The Meadows Museum will celebrate its golden anniversary with a series of other special exhibitions and programs, along with public and private events, April 16-18, 2015, during SMU’s annual Founders’ Day Weekend. The museum’s 50th celebration coincides with the 100th anniversary of SMU’s opening in 1915.
The 50th anniversary represents a landmark moment in time for the Meadows Museum, and we’re thrilled to celebrate it with a series of special exhibitions,” says Linda Perryman Evans, president and CEO of The Meadows Foundation. “Thanks to the extraordinary vision of Algur H. Meadows and the support of SMU and museum donors, the Meadows has become one the most comprehensive museums of Spanish art in the world.”
As part of the yearlong celebration, Meadows Museum will feature two landmark exhibitions of art works never seen outside of Spain – The Abelló Collection: A Modern Taste for European Masters April 18-August 2, 2015, and Treasures from the House of Alba: 500 Years of Art and Collecting September 4, 2015-January 3, 2016.
The Meadows Museum is undergoing the “second most important era of collecting in its history,” says Scott Winterrowd, curator of education. This second era was spurred, in part, by a $33 million gift from The Meadows Foundation in 2006. The gift included $25 million to support Meadows Museum acquisitions, exhibitions, expanded educational programs and other initiatives, as well as a challenge grant to match dollar-for-dollar new gifts for acquisitions.
As a result of this support, last summer the Meadows Museum acquired three works by noted Spanish artists Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, Miquel Barceló and Juan Muñoz “to further enhance the museum’s role as a leader in the study and presentation of Spanish art,” Winterrowd says. These new works – currently on display at the museum – expand and strengthen the Meadows’ 19th- and 20th-century holdings, as well as its growing collection of contemporary art. As a result of these and other acquisitions, the Meadows’ collection has nearly doubled in size in the past 35 years with more than 815 paintings, sculptures and works on paper.
The museum’s first era, of course, began with one foresighted collector – Algur H. Meadows – who fell in love with the art of Spain while prospecting for new oil sources there during the 1950s. Meadows, founder of General American Oil Company, would visit Madrid’s world-renowned Prado Museum and admire the works of the world’s great artists. Although his oil prospecting was a bust in Spain, Meadows aggressively began to acquire Spanish art.
In 1962 Meadows donated to SMU his private collection of Spanish paintings in memory of his late wife Virginia Stuart Garrison Meadows. At the time, SMU was raising funds to build a new facility for its School of the Arts, and Meadows provided an endowment for the school and a museum to house his collection, which opened on the north side of Owen Arts Center in 1965.
Shortly after the museum opened, questions were raised about the validity of some works in the collection, and Meadows learned he had been victimized by some unscrupulous sellers of fraudulent art. With founding Meadows Museum director William B. Jordan, an American historian of Spanish painting, Algur Meadows meticulously began to rebuild the collection, removing and replacing the questioned works.
From 1967 until his death in 1978, Meadows had spent $10 million on rebuilding the collection and the Elizabeth Meadows Sculpture Garden (named after his second wife) outside the Owen Arts Center. “He became one of the greatest patrons and one of the most admired men in the art world,” Jordan said during the museum’s 30th anniversary. “His response to the negative experiences he had when he first began collecting was an example of ‘growupness’ to the world.”
The Meadows Museum now represents the art of Spain ranging from the 10th to the 21st centuries. In fact, the Meadows Museum is affectionately known as “the Prado on the Prairie” (prado in Spanish means meadow).
Today, over 50,000 visitors a year, including 5,500 school children, come to the museum to see what is considered one of the most significant and comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. The Meadows Museum collection includes works by Spain’s greatest masters – El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Murillo, Goya, Miró, Picasso and Sorolla. The collection also includes sculptures by major 20th- and 21st-century masters, including Auguste Rodin, Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, David Smith, Jaume Plensa and Santiago Calatrava.
Miguel Zugaza, director of Museo National del Prado, says, “We consider the Meadows Museum as part of the family of the institutions that look after the Spanish art in the world, which study the Spanish art in the world and is located in a city like Dallas, so rooted and so connected with the history of Spain itself.”
As the collection grew, so did the need for additional space. Aided by a $20 million gift from The Meadows Foundation, a new 66,000-square-foot facility, six times larger than the original museum, opened in 2001 on Bishop Boulevard just north of Mockingbird Lane. The first floor houses education programs, special events and small galleries; the second floor contains galleries dedicated to the original collection and special exhibitions. An expansive outdoor plaza showcases the Elizabeth Meadows Sculpture Collection, which features the latest acquisitions: Plensa’s “Sho” (2007), a 13-foot-tall sculpture of a female head formed by white-painted stainless steel openwork mesh; and Calatrava’s moving sculpture “Wave” (2002), installed below the plaza at street level.
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As a repository of significant Spanish art, the Meadows Museum serves as a resource for art scholars and students, both at SMU and worldwide. Pamela Patton, chair and professor of art history in Meadows School of the Arts, served as curator from 1993 to 2000 and co-authored The Meadows Museum: A Handbook of Spanish Painting and Sculpture. She uses the collection to teach undergraduates the art and culture of medieval Spain and Europe and to support thesis development by graduate students. She has a particular fondness for a 14th-century Catalan Eucharist cabinet, the basis for scholarly articles she has written.
“There are few special collections of Spanish art in the world [outside the Prado],” Patton says. “Because of the Meadows collection, and as a university, SMU is one of the few places that can teach the art of Spain as fully as it should be taught.”
Senior Elisabeth CreMeens is an intern at the Meadows Museum who works with Winterrowd to develop interactive programs for students, children and adults. The art history major/medieval studies minor has a preference for the museum’s medieval retablos – paintings or sculpture set behind the altar of a church – because they naturally apply to her academic interests.
“I have used pieces from the Meadows Museum collection as research topics in my art history courses, such as my Baroque class, which was actually taught within the museum. Art and art history faculty urge their students to use the museum’s collection in their assignments,” she says.
Because of the Catholic Church’s dominance and influence in Spain during the 16th century, that country’s Golden Age, works in the museum mirror the religious fervor of the era, as well a response to the Reformation occurring in Northern Europe during the 17th century. The Meadows collection reflects intense religious feelings in works rich in the symbolism of the church; they usually tell a story because few among the general population could then read.
Roglán contends that the Meadows Museum has long been highly regarded and more known outside the Dallas area. “Spain has one of the richest history’s of art and culture in Europe. The country itself is the result of a crossroads of cultures, a melting pot of legacies, including the Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Muslims, Jews and Christians,” he says. “After 1492, Spain became the portal to the Americas, another unique chapter in its history that still resonates today. Moreover, some of the greatest art patrons throughout history were Spanish, and collections, such as the Prado Museum in Madrid, reflect Spain’s wealth and interest in the arts and culture.”
To broaden outreach to the local Hispanic and international communities, the museum printed wall labels for all its works in English and Spanish. While the new museum was under construction in 2000, 27 paintings were sent for exhibition to Spain, where they were received enthusiastically in Madrid and Barcelona.
Since its opening nearly 14 years ago, the museum has been able not only to display all of its significant works, but also to organize and bring to Dallas major exhibitions that have helped to increase museum membership and attract crowds, many of whom are visiting the museum for the first time. In the area of Spanish art, the Meadows Museum has shown, among many other exhibits, the popular Balenciaga and His Legacy, featuring the creations of the renowned Spanish fashion designer; Royal Splendor in the Enlightenment: Charles IV of Spain, Patron and Collector; and Sorolla and America.
Beginning in 2010, the Meadows Museum entered into a historic partnership with the Prado Museum, in which the Spanish institution agreed to lend to SMU three major paintings from its collection over three years. The works included El Greco’s “Pentecost”; Jusepe de Ribera’s “Mary Magdalene”; and Diego Velázquez’s “Philip IV.” These could be viewed and studied next to other works by the same artists in the Meadows Museum’s collection. Roglán says the success of the partnership led to the groundbreaking exhibition, Impressions of Europe: Nineteenth-Century Vistas by Martín Rico, which opened at the Meadows in March 2013 after its presentation at the Prado.
The partnership and interaction with the Prado and other international collections helped to lay the groundwork for the upcoming exhibitions of the Abelló and Alba collections. And as it has from the beginning, The Meadows Foundation again is providing support to bring the exhibits to SMU.