IX. The Hispanic Society of America
The Hispanic Society of America was founded in 1904 by the American magnate Archer M. Huntington, who conceived it as a place for the study and preservation of Hispanic culture in New York. Its founder also left the Society his vast and rich collection of artwork and historic pieces, primarily from Spain. In 1909, Sorolla and Huntington began a fertile relationship that greatly contributed to the painter’s success in the United States; the collector also bought some of his best works. In 1910, they planned the mural which Sorolla was to paint for the Library of the Society’s new headquarters, built in 1908, which was designed to be the nucleus of the institution’s activities. Though Huntington felt that this room should be decorated with the most important episodes from Spanish and Portuguese history, Sorolla convinced his patron to let him do a monumental frieze with the different landscapes of Spain, including the characteristic types of each region.
The artist devoted all his energy to this project, almost uninterruptedly, from 1911 to 1919, leaving behind a vision of the country consistent with the one held by Huntington and other Anglo-Saxon Hispanists who, despite the process of industrialization that had already begun in Spain, still had a neo-Romantic vision of the country, focused on its more timeless aspects and the survival of past customs. Huntington was very satisfied with the result, and in 1918, when he saw the nearly-complete series of panels, he said: ‘Sorolla has taken his theory of painting to the limit, and for that alone it will endure.’