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Mi Puerto Rico: Master Painters of the Island
Francisco Oller y Cestero. Hacienda Aurora, 1898-1899. Oil on wood panel, 12 1/ 2 x 21 7/8. Collection Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc., Ponce, Puerto Rico.

WORCESTER, MA.- The Worcester Art Museum provides to its visitors with a wide-ranging overview of the three most important artists of Puerto Rico José Campeche y Jordán (1715-1809), Francisco Oller y Cestero (1833-1917) and Miguel Pou y Becerra (1880-1968). The exhibition titled Mi Puerto Rico: Master Painters of the Island, 1780-1952 was curated by Marimar Benitez, Director, School of Fine Arts, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Cheryl Hartup, Chief Curator of Museo de Arte de Ponce and comprises 47 works of art from public and private collections, of which 16 are form MAP.

Mi Puerto Rico explores the evolution of an artistic vision: how these three principal painters in the island’s history saw and represented their surroundings over the course of nearly two centuries. MAP’s collaboration with the Worcester Art Museum brings the island’s rich artistic heritage to Puerto Rican audiences in Massachusetts, New York, and the greater New England area.

These painters portray in their work Puerto Rico’s reality through the years. Campeche was the official painter of his time. His elegant, delicate, and refined portraits offer detailed testimony about the life of the ruling classes in 18th-century Puerto Rico. He was often commissioned to paint portraits of governors and their wives, officers of the garrison, bishops, and colonial officials. His probing eye allowed him to depict true-to-life individuals posed in detailed surroundings, offering, in addition, an authentic glimpse of the streets of San Juan and the country’s landscape.

The legacy of artistic excellence established by Campeche continued with Francisco Oller. His paintings epitomized a new role for the artist, however, that of critic as well as chronicler of society. Oller studied abroad and brought back to Puerto Rico the new developments in painting heralded by the European avant-garde. Along with his peers, he embraced the precepts of Realism and Impressionism, artistic tendencies which were changing the face of painting in the Europe. The landscapes he painted after he returned to Puerto Rico sought to capture the Caribbean’s atmosphere by portraying its tropical light and its intense, variable skies.

Miguel Pou, on the other hand, liked to portray what the artist called “regional types”. He noted that he was indebted to the Impressionists for his sense of color; though in terms of subject matter, he wished to “reflect the soul of my people” and a way of life he feared was being “blown by the wind” of modernity. To this end, his best work embraced aspects of the land, its people, and their customs.

The work of contemporaries of Oller and Pou are also part of the exhibition. These artists were also inspired by the island’s majestic landscape, and they portrayed its inhabitants—and especially the abundance of the natural world—as symbols of permanence, pride, and authenticity.

Mi Puerto Rico: Master Painters of the Island, 1780-1952 was made possible in part with a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), to support the exhibition and the reproduction of its catalogue, and a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS). The exhibition will be presented until January 14th 2007.

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