Prof. Jonathan Brown. © Fotógrafo Jason Varone

Prof. Jonathan Brown. © Fotógrafo Jason Varone

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Golden Age Painting: personal perspectives

The lecture series of this third Chair of the Museo del Prado in 2012, directed by Jonathan Brown, an American hispanist, Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University and leading expert on 16th- and 17th-century Spanish art and Velázquez, will focus on Golden Age Painting. This new Chair will analyse the history of Spanish art from the viewpoint of earlier studies, covering the revolution in this field that began in the 1970s. From his privileged position as one of the leading figures in that revolution, Jonathan Brown will look at how those new approaches arose, bringing together the different areas that have been the object of his studies since he was a young man and which together constitute a unique testimony for art historical reflection. His starting point will be the idea that history is malleable and mobile, a fact that has encouraged an ongoing revision of historical events, which have to some extent been adapted to the requirements and circumstances of each age. This phenomenon, which, as Professor Brown has noted, Oscar Wilde described as the fact that “History is an exact reconstruction of facts that never took place”, is recognisable not just to historians but also to art historians.

The programme will start with an overview of the studies in Spanish art undertaken between 1940 and 1960, their impact on Jonathan Brown’s early years and his visits to Madrid and the Museo del Prado in 1958 to 1959, and the reasons that led him to become an expert in Spanish art: how this was possible from his particular viewpoint, which at times ran contrary to the formalism and positivism that prevailed in Spanish institutions at that period. These experiences will be accompanied by his thoughts on the studies undertaken on the works by El Greco, Ribera and their studios that have acted as frames of reference for numerous important painters. Also to be analysed are the origins of the studies on the early modern European courts (the Spanish Habsburgs, Stuarts and Bourbons), how these studies were received by the Spanish academic world and their influence on the art of the Spanish courts from Charles V to Charles II. The progress in Velázquez studies over the past forty years and in the study of Spanish painting in the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico) will also be considered. These are “histories” in the plural that will lead participants to understand the ways in which the past is filtered in the present and vice versa.

The lecture series that constitutes the 2012 Prado Chair is principally aimed at professionals in the field of art history and archaeology, teachers and students but it is also open to the general public. Lectures will take place in the Museum’s Auditorium between May and October next year and will be complemented by a corresponding number of seminars that are only open to the 20 selected recipients of grants (who must attend them). These grant recipients will not be obliged to pay the course enrolment fee.

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