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The Museo del Prado and the Department for the Promotion of the Arts of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, in collaboration with PHotoEspaña, are presenting Masks Monday, July 21, 2014

The Museo del Prado and the Department for the Promotion of the Arts of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, in collaboration with PHotoEspaña, are presenting Masks. The exhibition features a series of 18 photographic portraits taken in the 1980s by Alberto Schommer, a recent recipient of the National Photography Prize, together with a selection of 13 portraits from the Museum’s own collection painted by Spanish artists between the 16th and the early 20th century.

The Museo del Prado and the Department for the Promotion of the Arts of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, in collaboration with PHotoEspaña, are presenting Masks

Juana Mordó, gallerist, Photographic print on baryta coated paper, 40 x 30 cm, 1985, © Alberto Schommer, VEGAP, Madrid, 2014

Room C of the Prado’s Jerónimos Building is the venue for the exhibitions Masks, a series of 18 photographic portraits by Alberto Schommer of modern-day Spanish intellectuals. They will be shown in a specially devised context in the Museum, alongside a selection of 13 portraits from its collection that are comparable in terms of iconography and composition. The result is a gallery of artists and literary figures of the early modern age and our own times, with encounters between Juan de Ribera and José Luis L. Aranguren, Luis de Góngora and Vicente Aleixandre, Goya and Antonio Saura, Espronceda and Juan Benet, and the young Velázquez and Antonio López, among others.

The series of individuals photographed by Schommer includes writers of different generations, philosophers, historians and leading figures from the world of the visual arts. All the portraits use the same typology, the historical origins of which date back to classical sculpted busts and which was revived in the portraits and self-portraits of intellectuals and artists to be seen from the Renaissance onwards.

The Masks series is presented at the Museo del Prado alongside a selection of portraits from the Museum’s collection painted by Spanish artists and revealing the same iconographic criterion, given that they depict Spanish writers and artists, while also using similar compositional models. They include portraits by Luis de Morales and in particular Velázquez that were directly influenced by El Greco, one of the first and most original exponents of the tradition of the frontal portrait bust located in an undefined setting and using direct lighting. Some of El Greco’s portraits of this type can be seen in the major exhibition El Greco and Modern Painting, also on display at the Prado at the present time, which analyses the artist’s influence on numerous 19th- and 20th-century artists including Manet, Cézanne, Picasso, Chagall and Kokoschka.

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