Friday, June 3, 2011

The Hispanic Society of America: Broadway and 156th St

Statuary in Audubon Terrace in front of the Society with iconic equestrian statue of El Cid
by American sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington

The Hispanic Society of America has an amazing collection of tin-glazed earthenware, tiles, and ceramics ranging from 3000 year old Bell-Beaker pottery to contemporary works.  Their 150 piece Spanish luster-ware collection is considered the finest in the U.S. (see right--ok, the plate I chose to feature was one that I was personally drawn to because originally I thought the dog pictured was a poodle, like my beloved Biscuit, but I think, given that this is the Hispanic Society (and not the French one), it is probably a Portuguese Waterdog)  Other decorative arts include silver, glasswear, ivory-detailed furniture, silks and embroidery, and jewelry.

If your interests lie in sculpture or archeology, the Society's collection of Spanish antiquities, which is considered the most important outside of Spain is simply amazing.  There are Roman mosaics, statuary, Islamic and Christian works from the Middle Ages.  What sets the Society's display apart from others (like the fantastic one at The Cloisters -- see my prior blog), is that visitors can really get up close and personal with the pieces (see detail in an architectural remnant at left). 

Actually, I think that they receive such few visitors -- I was the only visitor there for over an hour! -- that the guards don't really do much of anything.  Please give these guys something to do and visit this magnificent art collection; it's always FREE!

But really, the crown jewel of the Society's collection are its paintings.  They have original paintings by, among others, Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Goya, Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco -- see right), and Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida.

The Sorolla paintings are my absolute favorite--it reminds me of the Sorolla Museum (which was once the painter's home) where I spent countless afternoons when I lived in Madrid during my junior year in college.  The way Sorolla captures water and sunlight on skin in summer time beach scenes is something that I have never forgotten and believe no one can match (see left and right--yes, I know these pictures are terrible, but hopefully that will encourage you to come see them for yourself).

The Sorolla Room's breathtaking panoramic series of 14 canvases illustrating life in Spain in the early 1900s is a beautiful way for the Society to share with visitors a celebration of Spanish culture, costumes, and pastoral life.  I have included some pictures below, but really they do not do the paintings justice and you should really visit the galleries here (Hispanic Society Info).

I can't emphasize this enough.  After several months of exploring NYC I think this place is really one of the best kept secrets and hidden jewels of the City.  Please visit The Hispanic Society of America.  You'll be abundantly rewarded for the effort of coming all the way up to 156th Street.

1 comment:

  1. The Hispanic Society is a favorite of mine too. I visited for the first time in a few years yesterday. The ceramics had been moved since my last visit, into a new exhibit space where they show beautifully. That should have been highlighted in a press release!