Meadows Museum presents "El Greco, Goya, and a Taste for Spain: Highlights from The Bowes Museum"
The son of a British aristocrat, prominent Northeast England landowner, John Bowes (1811–1885) pursued an interest in politics, business, and the arts during his lifetime, becoming a part of English and French high society. Joséphine Coffin-Chevallier (1825–1874) was a French actress, painter, and the daughter of a clockmaker. After their marriage in 1852, John and Joséphine’s shared passion for the arts prompted them to create a public museum in the market town of Barnard Castle, near John’s estate.
Using John’s wealth and influence, along with Joséphine’s intuitive eye, the couple began acquiring art in 1860, with a strong focus on underappreciated Spanish works of the time. Between the years 1862 and 1874, John and Joséphine would amass a collection of approximately 15,000 paintings and objects, from silver to tapestries. This also included 102 Spanish paintings, creating within The Bowes Museum one of the most comprehensive collections of Spanish art in the British Isles. Unfortunately, neither John nor Josephine would live to see the completion of their museum, which opened to the public in 1892.
John and Joséphine’s interest in Spanish painting came on the recommendation of one of their art dealers, who identified an important opportunity following the death of Conde Francisco Javier de Quinto y Cortés in 1860. A Spanish politician, de Quinto was also the director of the Museo de la Trinidad in Madrid and an established collector. After the Conde de Quinto’s death, his collection was auctioned in Paris in 1863; the 11 works presented in this exhibition are all works the Boweses acquired from that collection. The exhibition will also include selected archival materials that demonstrate John and Josephine’s process of collecting, such as the catalogue from the de Quinto sale with John Bowes’s annotations.