Huge mural of Spain returns to renovated NY museum

Fri May 7, 2010 12:24pm EDT
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A huge mural, the largest-ever of Spain in modern history, returns this week to a long-neglected Manhattan museum that has been renovated with grants from Spain.

"Vision of Spain," which consists of 14 panels that together measure 230 feet by 11.5 feet was painted nearly a century ago by Joaquin Sorolla, Spain's pre-eminent painter of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 14 panels, which showcase 10 regions of Spain and include large brush strokes painted with huge brushes, took Sorolla eight years to complete.

"The painting sparkles with energy," said Mitchell Codding, director of the Hispanic Society, which will display the work at its renovated museum at the northern end of Manhattan.

"It captures the dusty, dry air of Castile, the vivid colors of a fair in Seville and the glistening skins of tuna fish being dragged onto a seaside dock, showing the muscular effort of fishermen," he said.

The museum, which underwent a $6 million facelift, largely with funds from Bancaja, a Valencia savings bank, and Spain's Culture Ministry, has more than 100 works by Sorolla, including his 1903 "Beaching the Boat, Late Afternoon Sun."

But New York University professor Jonathan Brown said "Vision of Spain" stands out as Sorolla's Sistine Chapel.

"There's nothing painted in Spain in the last couple of centuries that rivals the mural in size and scope," he said.   Continued...

<p>The oil on canvas "Navarra" by Joaquin Sorolla is shown in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of the Hispanic Society/Handout</p>