Her plump lips, flushed cheeks, and direct gaze signal coquettish ennui, while the vivid red roses tucked in her hair and dangling, ostentatious diamond earrings underscore the intensity of her emerging coyness. She leans into a windowsill as she trembles into womanhood in a relaxed, yet calculated pose.
Mary Cassatt’s recently rediscovered oil on canvas Spanish Girl Leaning on a Window Sill (circa 1872) is a stunning highlight of Americans in Spain: Painting and Travel, 1820-1920, co-organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art and Milwaukee Art Museum. The exhibition will be on view at the Chrysler in Norfolk, Virginia, from February 12, 2021, through May 16, 2021, and at the Milwaukee from June 11, 2021, through October 3, 2021.
“Cassatt undertook a pivotal journey to Spain as a young artist, traveling on her own to study the country’s old masters. She established a studio in Seville, where she painted a small group of figural works like Spanish Girl Leaning on a Window Sill that demonstrated her engagement with old masters like Francisco Goya and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, as well as her own growing command of the techniques of painterly realism,” said Corey Piper, Brock curator of American art at the Chrysler Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. “Cassatt left the painting behind in Seville, where it likely came into the possession of a fellow Spanish artist, Manuel Barrera, who had aided her during her time in the city.”
The groundbreaking exhibition examines a crucial period in the 19th and early 20th centuries when American artists and their European counterparts were drawn to Spain to depict its captivating cities and landscapes and indulge in its intriguing culture and traditions. More than 100 works of art, including paintings spanning from the 17th through 20th centuries, as well as photographs, prints, and travel guides, include master works by American artists such as Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, John Singer Sargent, will be on view alongside their Spanish contemporaries and Spain’s Old Masters. Visitors will be transported to Madrid via a 3D Visualization of the Prado Museum and an Interactive Artist Travelers Project of key sites using mobile devices.
“American artists’ ‘discovery’ of Spain as revealed in this exhibition is critical in many ways but I will focus on two interrelated aspects. The artists who traveled to Spain were breaking the bonds that had tied many earlier artists to London and Italy as the fixed settings for artistic trading and influence,” said Erik Neil, director of the Chrysler Museum. “Their recognition of the need for broader frames of reference coincides with the growth of tourism in the place of the Grand Tour. Similarly, their appreciation for and use of popular culture, such as photographs and guidebooks, points toward modern practice in the visual arts.”