Starting today, visitors to the Prado Museum
will have the opportunity to obtain a first-hand overview of the work of the Madrid-born landscape painter Martín Rico (1833-1908). Rico is of the most important Spanish painters of the first half of the 19th century and the finest representation of his work is to be found in the Museo del Prado. In addition to the twelve canvases, forty notebooks and an album of watercolours in the Museums collection, this first monographic exhibition to be devoted to the artist will include masterpieces loaned from museums world-wide, in particular American institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the Hispanic Society of New York. They will be seen in Spain for the first time.
This important selection offers a survey of every phase within the career of Martín Rico, the Spanish landscape painter to achieve the highest degree of international renown in his day with his impressions of Europe, from his early landscape of the Sierra of Madrid to his depictions of Paris and later of Venice.
A pioneer in the introduction of realist landscape, Ricos outstanding ability to capture light and the distinctive characteristics of the cities that he visited brought him considerable renown in his own time, particularly in the USA where his work is now represented in a number of museums and private collections. Ricos international reputation is largely based on the fact that he established a career outside Spain after he was awarded a State grant in 1862 to study landscape painting abroad. For more than forty years and until his death the artist worked in Paris and Venice where he captured the beauty of these two cities and established contacts with leading artists such as Camille Pissarro, one of the first generation of Impressionists, and Daubigny, the Barbizon School landscape painter.
The international nature of Ricos fame meant that his works were more successful outside Spain and for this reason, and with the exception of the Museo del Prado, there are few works by him in Spanish museums. The present exhibition thus aims to promote greater knowledge of the artist while also pursuing the Museums policy of reassessing the principal 19th-century Spanish artists, a strategy to which it has been committed in recent years.
Following its presentation in Madrid, the exhibition will travel to the Meadows Museum in Dallas (10 March to 7 July 2013).
The Landscape Painter Martín Rico (1833-1908) offers a chronological survey, divided into five sections, of 43 oil paintings (as well as a portrait of the artist by Sorolla), 9 watercolours, 40 sketchbooks belonging to the Prado and 9 drawings loaned by the Hispanic Society of New York. It aims to present a comprehensive survey of Ricos work from his early landscapes of the Sierra de Madrid that still fall within the Romantic tradition to his subsequent time in Paris and his trips to Granada, Seville and Toledo where he painted views of exceptional originality due to their luminosity and freshness. It also encompasses his views of Switzerland and Italy, particularly Venice, where Rico fully established his particular style.
Among the most important works in the exhibition is Torre de las Damas in the Alhambra, Granada belonging to the Museo del Prado. Its represents Ricos first completely successful fusion of architecture and vegetation and was painted during his time in Granada to where he was invited by Mariano Fortuny and which marks a key moment in his career; the view of The Seine at Poissy, loaned from the Metropolitan Museum, New York, from his French period when he depicted scenes on the banks of the Seine near Paris and which, according to his follower, the painter Aureliano de Beruete, best represents Ricos particular artistic personality and abilities; and Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, loaned from a private collection, which is the final work in the exhibition and one of the most important from Ricos late period in which he brought together all the motifs that had interested him during nearly three decades in Venice.
The paintings in the exhibition are shown alongside 9 watercolours, some of outstanding quality such as Seville, loaned from the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, painted during the time Rico spent in Seville between 1872 and 1875. As in his earlier views of the Alhambra, he fuses Sevilles ancient, Islamic architecture with Sevilles marvellous vegetation seen under its dazzling spring light.
In addition, the forty sketchbooks by the artist belonging to the Prado (acquired in 2007) that are shown alongside the paintings encourage the viewer to appreciate Ricos creative process and admire his abilities as a draughtsman. Drawn from life, as were many of his compositions, they are an extremely valuable record of the motifs that most interested him, which were the historical monuments that he subsequently included in his oils in order to imbue his views of the cities of Spain with a more profound character. Rico generally used pencil for these sketches although at the end of his life he also deployed pen and ink in some of his Venetian notebooks.
The exhibition concludes with the best known period of Ricos career, represented here by 12 canvases painted between 1873 and 1902 when he discovered Venice and was dazzled by its colour, reflections and light. It was through his depictions of the city that he brought his work to the highest level of perfection at a time when international dealers promoted his works among leading American collectors.