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Museo de Arte de Ponce announces "Treasures of the Collection in Context: The Pre-Raphaelites"
Edward Coley Burne-Jones, The Sleeping Beauty from the small Briar Rose series. Oil on canvas, 60 x 115 cm. San Juan de Puerto Rico, Museo de Arte de Ponce.

PONCE, PR.- In an unprecedented event for Puerto Rico, on Saturday, February 4, 2012, Museo de Arte de Ponce will host an international symposium titled “Treasures of the Collection in Context: The Pre-Raphaelites in the Museo de Arte de Ponce Collection.” From 10 am to 5 pm, renowned specialists in art history and Victorian literature will meet in this south-coast Puerto Rico city to discuss the artists and works contained in the museum’s world-famed collection. This conference represents the most important academic event ever held on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in Puerto Rico.

The symposium is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Among the scholars specializing in Victorian England expected to take part in the conference are Tim Barringer (Yale University), Sally Huxtable (Northumbria University), Franny Moyle (author and BBC producer), Jason Rosenfeld (Marymount Manhattan College), Alison Smith (Tate Britain), and Madeleine Vala (University of Puerto Rico). Their presentations will be in English, with simultaneous interpretation into Spanish. The speakers promise to throw light on the creative processes of the young artists who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, their sources of inspiration, and the recurrent themes and subject-matter of the movement, and there will be panels on the artistic and literary exchanges that occurred as a result of the movement’s sweeping influence and popularity. Also to be discussed are the curatorial approaches that have been taken in Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions organized since 1980.

The remarkable collective of painters and poets that comprised the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood decried the formulaic nature of the art promulgated by the Royal Academy in London, and proposed instead to return to an “honest” art—the sort that existed, in their view, prior to Raphael. And so the Brotherhood’s name: the Pre-Raphaelites.

Museo de Arte de Ponce’s British Collection consists of sixty-six objects dating from 1760 to 1905. Forty of these works are Pre-Raphaelite paintings, drawings, and a photograph. It represents one of the clear strengths among its holdings, and the nucleus of Victorian works in the British Collection has been called one of the most important outside London itself.

“This symposium will be a milestone in the Museum’s history, as it will offer, for the first time, a broad look at these wonderful works of art outside the context in which they were created,” said Agustín Arteaga, the museum’s director and chief executive officer, who then added, “Through this international symposium we will be bringing this important group of works to the attention of a broader public and continuing to promote our permanent collection as an object of study and intercultural dialogue.”

The conference will serve as a preamble to the publication, in the summer of 2012, of a bilingual (English/Spanish) catalog of the Museo de Arte de Ponce’s British Collection, which is being co-edited by Cheryl Hartup (the museum’s curator-in-chief), Alison Smith, and Sally Anne Huxtable. This collection, which has traveled to the Tate Britain, the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Gemeente Museum in The Hague, and the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, among many others, contains such masterpieces as The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon (1881–1898) by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Flaming June (c. 1895) by Frederic, Lord Leighton. The catalog of the British Collection is planned as the first in a series of volumes on specific areas of the museum’s permanent collection, specifically those that solidify its position as an institution of great international prestige.

The Museum is offering financial aid for graduate students in Art History or Victorian Literature who wish to take part in the symposium for academic purposes. Those interested in applying for this aid (which will be given on a competitive basis) should send a current curriculum vitae accompanied by a letter of interest explaining how their participation in the symposium is related to the museum’s collection, and how it would further their studies and possible or ongoing research. The letter should be addressed to, and should specify the university where they are studying and their year of study. Deadline for application is January 7, 2012.

To complement this academic event, on the evening of February 4, the museum’s restaurant Al Sur will offer a prix-fixe menu designed especially for the symposium. Chef Ariel has drawn inspiration from the Romanticism that was a part of the age of the Pre-Raphaelites, and he is making preparations to delight diners with foods known in the culinary world for their relationship to love and passion. And coincidentally, that dizzying passion of the time is at the heart of the BBC-produced mini-series “Desperate Romantics,” based on the best-selling novel by one of the symposium’s speakers, Franny Moyle.

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