The Santa Cruz Museum and the Roberto Polo Collection. Center for Modern and Contemporary Art of Castilla-La Mancha (CORPO) present a joint project for the exchange of works under the title Miradas Cruzadas, whose first action will take place to commemorate International Museum Day 2022, which is celebrated this Wednesday, May 18 , and will remain exposed to the public until June 19
"Based on the condition of Art as a continuous line through History, what Miradas Cruzadas is looking for is an interaction between both institutions that brings about a dialogue between the different artistic periods that one and the other museum collects, and their permanent collections", as they explain. Antonio Dávila, director of Santa Cruz, and Rafael Sierra, director of CORPO.
This first interaction essay, which opens on International Museum Day 2022, is about the portrait. Santa Cruz will temporarily cede to CORPO the Apostolate altarpiece, attributed to Nicolás Francés, one of the greatest Spanish representatives of international Gothic. The work is dated to the second third of the 15th century and is made up of twelve Italian poplar tablets painted in oil tempera, glue and bowl gilding, and each one of them reproduces, on a gold background, the image of an apostle with his symbolic attributes. CORPO lends the Santa Cruz museum two oil paintings and an outstanding drawing from the room or permanent exhibition dedicated to the Imaginary Portraits of Pierre-Louis Flouquet, a Franco-Belgian artist who between 1927-1931 dedicated his activity to reproducing human typologies, exaggerating his grimaces and defects, which constituted a sociological study of the time. Flouquet's three works will be exhibited in the lower transept of Santa Cruz, in dialogue with other portraits and historical pieces from the museum's permanent collection. The altarpiece by Francés will occupy the central place in the room dedicated to the avant-garde artist in the Roberto Polo Collection. Center for Modern and Contemporary Art of Castilla-La Mancha.
Of Nicolás Francés, painter and miniaturist, we have news between 1434 and 1468, the date of his death; Nothing is known about his training or when and why he came to León, where he lived and worked as a teacher for the rest of his life. Surely of French origin due to his nicknames (French or The Burgundian Master), although in the documents he appears as Master Nicolás, he was closely linked as Master Master to the Cathedral of León, whose construction made this city an important artistic center. Much of his work has been lost and only this set of saints is documented, while the other works preserved have been attributed to him for reasons of style. The Prado Museum preserves another monumental piece, the Altarpiece of the life of the Virgin and Saint Francis.
The international Gothic style developed in the fifteenth century in Flanders, France, Burgundy and much of Central Europe, coinciding with the dawn of the Renaissance. It is dynamic and narrative, and is characterized by the observation of nature and the pleasure of giving color to the scenes with anecdotes; of a Nordic realism that can become exaggerated and caricatured, especially in the representation of certain types such as executioners and villains, embodying stereotypes and prejudices about the Other –an outstanding example in this sense are the representations of Jews– that combine with elegance of figures and ornaments, also characteristic of this style.
Pierre-Louis Flouquet. Imaginary portraits, the title that CORPO has given to the permanent exhibition to which the three portraits ceded to Santa Cruz belong, is a clear and intentional oxymoron, given that a portrait is by definition a copy and representation of a real and existing face, it is say the opposite of imaginary. This is intended to highlight the strong impression of reality and individuality of the drawings, despite their deformation and imaginary condition. A taste for representing and exaggerating the grotesque that we already find in Leonardo's famous drawings from the end of the fifteenth century, a tendency previously shown by Flemish Renaissance artists such as Dürer, Brueghel the Elder, Cranach, Holbein and, previously, Bosch, but which does not constitute aesthetic category until the end of the 18th century, with milestones such as Hogarth and Goya. It is at the beginning of the 20th century when the critical and satirical use of the human face deformed by vices blossoms in expressionism, in the work of artists such as James Ensor and George Grosz, contemporary and parallel works to the portraits of Flouquet, who accentuates in the faces those features that Nazism detested as racial impurities.
The physical proximity of Santa Cruz and CORPO, as well as the history that over the centuries has united both architectural complexes, the old hospital and the palatine complex that became a Calatravo sanctuary and later a Santa Fe convent, suggests or demands that the relationship between both institutions, today devoted to art and dependent on the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha, are close and productive. The ultimate goal would be to make both of them a kind of Island of Art, in the way that other cities bring together their different art exhibition centers in a nearby area, as is the case of the Paseo del Arte in Madrid or the Island of Museums around the Spree river in Berlin.
Along this path, Miradas Cruzadas contemplates punctual and periodic exchanges until it reaches the celebration of a great exhibition that shows the public how that continuous line that is the History of Art, whose genres are repeated from prehistory to today, has come about and evolved. Portraits, landscapes, still lifes, still lifes, vanitas, seascapes, city or country scenes, etc., have been and will continue to be recurring themes throughout all artistic schools and styles throughout time. The conclusion of this project would be how the interaction of the Museum of Santa Cruz and CORPO, physically contiguous, historically twinned, can influence the idea of continuity and evolution of the History of Art, limited in periods to facilitate its study, which in this way it would offer the public a much broader view.