The Meadows Museum last year purchased the final painting of famed 19th-century Spanish artist, and a year later, they're devoting an entire exhibition to him. "Fortuny: Friends and Followers," which opened February 3, examines the far-reaching influence of Mariano Fortuny y Marsal (1838-1874).
The exhibition not only gives Meadows a chance to showcase its prized possession, called Beach at Portici (1874), but nearly 70 other works by 23 different artists.
"During his lifetime and well into the early 20th century, Fortuny was extremely popular in both Europe and the United States," the museum says in a release. "His proto-Impressionist style and “exotic” genre scenes influenced so many artists that the style came to be described with its very own 'ism:' 'Fortunismo.'"
"Fortuny: Friends and Followers" will explore that legacy by assembling works from a diverse group of artists, including William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891), John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), and James Tissot (1836-1902), as well as major works by Fortuny.
The exhibition addresses a variety of themes, the museum says, including intimate representations of family and home, cosmopolitan life in Europe’s major cities at the time, and the connections between and among the artists themselves. Notable works included in the show are Fortuny's The Choice of a Model (1868-74), an important work by the artist on long-term loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., as well as drawings and illustrated letters from the album compiled by William Hood Stewart (1820-1897), Fortuny’s chief American patron.
“Such was the power of ‘Fortunismo’ that nearly 20 years after his death, the artist’s last painting was a celebrated work at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which was visited by more than 27 million people,” says Mark Roglán, the Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum, in the release. “Part of Fortuny’s success came from his willingness to combine traditional sensibilities with the experimentation taking place across much of the art world at the time. His pieces not only charmed and engaged critics and collectors, they found a willing audience among other artists, who sought to learn from his vibrant style and adapt its lessons for their own work. It is these connections between artists that the exhibition brings to light.”
Meadows Museum Curator Amanda W. Dotseth added, “Today Fortuny is not a household name, but his popularity and influence in the 1860s and early 1870s cannot be overstated. He was one of the best-selling artists of his time and lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle that seamlessly blended work with leisure.
"He traveled frequently between southern Spain, Paris, Rome, Naples, and Venice with an impressive entourage of friends and followers in tow. And, although he died at only 36 years old, his legacy long survived him through his works, which would inspire later generations of artists, from Vincent van Gogh to Dalí and Picasso.”
The exhibition will run through June 2. The Meadows Museum is the leading U.S. institution focused on the study and presentation of the art of Spain.
The Meadows will host monthly gallery talks by three special lectures, each addressing different artists and aspects of the works represented in the exhibition:
"The Spanish Look: Fortuny, Frenchmen, and the Sombrero Calañés"
By Daniel Ralston, Meadows Curatorial Fellow
This lecture explores how Fortuny, his artistic circle, and his principal American collectors sought to define, construct, and propagate their own unique image of Spain.
"Eakins, Sargent, and Chase: Fortuny’s Divergent American Admirers"
By Brian Allen, independent art historian
This talk examines the Spanish master’s appeal to a range of young American painters working in differing styles, from Thomas Eakin’s realism, to John Singer Sargent’s painterly naturalism, and William Merritt Chase’s adaptation of brushwork akin to Impressionism.
"Dressing the Model"
By Gloria Groom, chair of European painting and sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago
This lecture will explore why and how the artists of Mariano Fortuny’s circle — Tissot, Gérôme, Alfred Stevens, and other so-called academic painters — used fashion in their portraits and genre scenes, as well as how these artists intersected with the Impressionists, including Renoir, Monet, Degas, and Manet.