January 28, 2007 - Newark Museum - Mi Puerto Rico, Master Painters of the Island, 1780-1952
January 28, 2007

Mi Puerto Rico, Master Painters of the Island, 1780-1952

Miguel Pou y Becerra (1880-1968), Los coches de Ponce (Horse Drawn Carriages in Ponce), 1926, oil on canvas, 28 1/4 x 23 1/4. Collection Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Photo: John Betancourt.

Mi Puerto Rico
Master Painters of the Island, 1780-1952

February 16-April 15, 2007

49 Washington Street
Newark, New Jersey 07102-3176
General Information: 973-596-6550


The first major exhibition in the continental United States devoted to Puerto Ricos three greatest masters, José Campeche, Francisco Oller, and Miguel Pou, opens at The Newark Museum on February 16, 2007. Organized by the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Mi Puerto Rico: Master Painters of the Island, 1780-1952 showcases select masterpieces from their permanent collection and rarely seen paintings from private collections in Puerto Rico. Celebrating the art and artists of this Caribbean island, Mi Puerto Rico provides an extraordinary glimpse into the rich artistic heritage of this United States Commonwealth. The Newark Museum is the exhibitions final venue in the continental United States; it closes on April 15.
Mi Puerto Rico consists of forty paintings including portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and genre scenes by José Campeche (1751-1809), Francisco Oller (1833-1917), and Miguel Pou (1880-1968). The exhibition explores how these three principal painters from different generations perceived and rendered their surroundings, especially the islands people and iconic landscapes, over the course of nearly two centuries. Providing a broader context for the paintings of Oller and Pou, there are five additional works by several artists who were their peers: Ramon Atiles, Manuel E. Jordan, Jose Cuchi, Felix Medina and Ramon Frade.

José Campeche was the official portrait painter of 18th-century Puerto Rico. His elegant, delicate, and refined renderings offer detailed testimony about the life of the ruling classes. Bishops, governors, mayors, and other high-ranking officials commissioned him to paint their likenesses. Campeche was the son of a slave who had bought his freedom. Yet, from these inauspicious roots, Campeche became the best portrait painter in the Spanish America of his era, achieving an honored position within San Juans ruling elite. Campeche did not limit his artistic talents to painting; he was also well known as an urban planner, architectural draftsman, musician, musical instrument craftsman as well as a fireworks maker. Because of his impressively broad range of talents, his mastery allowed him access to the pillars of Puerto Rican society: the Catholic Church, government, and the military. A retrospective of Campeches work was held in New Yorks Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1988.

The legacy of artistic excellence established by Campeche continued with Francisco Oller, whose paintings epitomized a new role for the artist, that of critic as well as chronicler of society. Ollers formal education began with trips to Spain and France, where he resided for a number of years. The influence of the Spanish master painters is evident in his still lifes. In Paris, he joined the vanguard of Courbet and Manet, becoming close friends with Pissarro and Cézanne. He embraced Realism and Impressionism, artistic movements that were changing the face of painting in the West. In the landscapes he painted after returning to Puerto Rico, he sought to capture the Caribbeans atmosphere through its tropical light and intense, variable skies. In 1983, a major exhibition of Ollers work traveled to El Museo del Barrio in New York, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de America Latina in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Miguel Pou liked to portray what the artist called regional types. Pou studied in the United States at the Art Students League in New York and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts during the earlier part of the 20th-century. 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. His best work was local, embracing the land, its people, and their customs. Like Campeche and Oller before him, Pou helped to define the national character of Puerto Rico during his lifetime, and he added to the islands artistic tradition in equally important ways.

The additional works in Mi Puerto Rico are by contemporaries of Oller and Pou. These artists were also inspired by the islands majestic landscape, and they portrayed its inhabitants and especially the abundance of the natural world as symbols of pride and authenticity.

Newark Museum
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