News and Features

El Greco Masterpiece Comes to Meadows Museum

An El Greco masterpiece on loan from the Prado Museum in Spain – the world’s top collection of Spanish art – begins a three-year partnership with the Meadows Museum at SMU. KERA’s Stephen Becker reports on how the collaboration furthers Meadows Museum founder Algur H. Meadows vision of a “Prado on the Prairie”:

KERA radio story:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

El Greco’s Pentecost looms large over the gallery that will be its home for the next five months. The nine-foot tall painting depicts the moment when the Holy Spirit descends on the Virgin Mary and the Apostles.

The figures look longingly toward the heavens as they are transformed. And Meadows Museum director Mark Roglan says the work represents a transformative moment for the 16th Century master El Greco as well.

ROGLAN: “There’s a huge change in his technique where he becomes much more free with his brush stroke … You can see how he’s able to harmonize all this color and paint with this kind of vibrant technique that was so modern and so little understood during his lifetime.”

Next year, the Prado will send Jusepe de Ribera’s Mary Magdalene, with Velazquez’s Philip IV arriving in 2012.

But Roglan says the partnership is about more than bringing art to Dallas. The Meadows Museum plans a series of publications about the works it is borrowing from the Prado. And the two museums will begin a curatorial internship program next year.

Gabriele Finaldi is Deputy Director for Collections and Research at the Prado.

FINALDI: “We’re a museum that’s very concerned with getting Spanish art better known. So the collaboration gives us the opportunity precisely to do that – to lend a major work from the museum, to share our research on the museum. It also gives the opportunity for our curators to come here to get to know the Meadows collection. So the idea of kind of ‘ambassador loans’ is very much what we want these precisely to be.”

Dallas oilman Algur H. Meadows, the museum’s namesake, fell in love with Spanish art while visiting Madrid on business in the 1950s. He eventually bought up more than 70 pieces that were used to launch the museum in 1965. It represented Meadows’s goal of founding a “Prado on the Prairie.”

The museum’s debut collection included three paintings thought to be by El Greco at the time. They’ve since been attributed to other artists, but each is on display in a satellite exhibition called “The Elusive El Greco.” The museum does have a real El Greco in the permanent collection, Saint Francis Kneeling in Meditation.

The new collaboration with the Prado finally brings to Dallas the El Greco masterpiece that Meadows longed for. And his vision for a Prado on the Prairie is closer to fruition

Which somehow seems appropriate. After all, “prado” in Spanish means, “meadow.”