San Diego Museum of Art Acquires Two Major Spanish Artworks

  • SAN DIEGO, California
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  • January 19, 2015

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Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, By the Seashore, Valencia, 1908. Oil on canvas. Museum Purchase with Funds Provided by the Legler Benbough Foundation, 2014.133.
San Diego Museum of Art

The San Diego Museum of Art has acquired two major paintings, St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto by Francisco de Zurbarán and By the Seashore, Valencia by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. These acquisitions of works from two influential artists continue to build on the strength of the Museum’s renowned Permanent Collection of Spanish art. St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto will be on view beginning January 21, 2015, and By the Seashore, Valencia will be on view starting February 26, 2015.

The notable acquisitions were made possible by generous donations from Conrad Prebys and Debbie Turner, in the case of the Zurbarán, and the Legler Benbough Foundation, whose donation led to the acquisition of the Sorolla. The gift from Prebys and Turner follows a $1.5 million donation in 2013 to support exhibitions and programming around The San Diego Museum of Art Celebrates 100 Years of Art in Balboa Park, the Museum’s initiative celebrating Balboa Park’s Centennial in 2015.

Francisco de Zurbarán, St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto, (detail) ca. 1655. Oil on canvas. Gift of Conrad Prebys and Debbie Turner, 2014.132
San Diego Museum of Art

The Legler Benbough Foundation continues a tradition of 35 years of immeasurable support by the organization. The Sorolla gift is particularly notable since the first work to enter the Museum’s collection was the artist’s Maria at La Granja, donated in 1925. This acquisition also follows the success of Sorolla and America, held at The San Diego Museum of Art from May 31 through August 26, 2014.

“The San Diego Museum of Art is thrilled to welcome these masterpieces into the Permanent Collection and further build on our holdings of Spanish art,” said Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director of The San Diego Museum of Art.  “To have philanthropists like Conrad Prebys, Debbie Turner, and the Legler Benbough Foundation, value the importance of art is a true gift to San Diego. These works will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Celebrating these Acquisitions and the Museum’s History

In 2015, The San Diego Museum of Art will celebrate 100 years of art in Balboa Park. In addition to a series of exhibitions and programs, the Museum will call attention to the value and significance of its own history and Permanent Collection, which began with a donation of Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida’s Maria at la Granja by Archer Milton Huntington, the founder of the Hispanic Society of America.

The Museum’s newest acquisition, By the Seashore, Valencia, is among several well-known bather and beach scenes completed by Sorolla during the summer of 1908. Portraying a beautiful, auburn-haired girl and a toddler on the Valencian seashore, this painting was featured in Sorolla’s 1909 touring exhibition, which was organized by the Hispanic Society of America and helped propel the artist to international fame. Included in the same series as After the Bath and Running Along the Beach (both featured in Sorolla and America) this painting is characteristic of the artist’s signature luminous style.

Spanning the centuries from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism, the Museum’s collection of Spanish Masterpieces is among the finest in the world. The façade of the Museum itself includes life-sized sculptures of Velázquez, Murillo, and Zurbarán. And its upstairs galleries include significant paintings by El Greco, Sánchez Cotán, and Juan de Valdes Leal, among others.

Francisco de Zurbarán’s St. Francis in Prayer (ca.1650-55) joins three important works by the artist: St. Jerome (ca. 1640-1645), Agnus Dei (ca. 1635-1640) and the Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John the Baptist (1658).

Pictured within a grotto set in a rugged landscape, Zurbarán’s St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto portrays the saint with his eyes fixed on the viewer—a hallmark of his late work. Formerly in the collection of the Counts of Ibangrande for more than 300 years, this painting is exemplary of the artist, one of the greatest painters of the Golden Age of Spain.

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