San Diego Museum of Art makes two major acquisitions
The San Diego Museum of Art on Thursday announced it has purchased two paintings to round out its Renaissance and portrait collections.
“Nymph of the Spring” (ca. 1537-1540) by Lucas Cranach the Younger and “Portrait of John Alfred Parsons Millet” (ca. 1892) by John Singer Sargent are now on display in the museum’s permanent collection.
“We are very delighted because we have not had this in San Diego. It is a first for the two major pieces,” said Roxana Velásquez, the museum’s executive director. “Both artists are internationally recognized, both are in the books of art history and both have transformed in certain ways the way art was developed at their time.”
Cranach’s piece represents the art of the Northern Renaissance, and its mythological scene was popular with sophisticated patrons. It will be the museum’s most important painting of that period and will complete the story of the Renaissance, Velásquez said, complementing the masterwork of Italian Renaissance artist Giorgione’s (Giorgio da Castelfranco) “Portrait of a Man.”
The younger Cranach worked closely with his father, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and it is believed that parts of the painting was done by the father, one of the leading German Renaissance painters.
“This is a great artist that represents that moment in time of the 16th century,” Velásquez said.
The details and delicate touches, such as the sheer veil and the elongated nude figure, are attributed to the elder Cranach.
“The face of nymph is just spectacular — elements that can just be done by the master,” Velásquez said. “If you focus on gaze of the nymph, it in itself is just a jewel. If you focus on the deer drinking water in the river, you see the movement in the tongue with two little brushstrokes. It is really impressive.”
Sargent, the premier American portrait artist at the turn of the 20th century, is known for his mastery of color contrasts and his loose, Impressionistic brushstrokes that add personality to his subjects. The boy in this painting — the son of a friend, who was named after the painter — has a more relaxed pose rather than the formal portraits of children at the time who look like small-scale adults.
“Sargent was a very indispensable missing piece in this museum,” Velásquez said, especially since the museum has a lot of portraits, including those of the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, who exhibited with Sargent. The piece has been displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Art.
Both acquisitions were purchased from private collections for undisclosed amounts with money from donors, charitable funds, and for “Nymph of the Spring,” the museum’s acquisition fund.
“They are a great addition to the permanent collection,” Velásquez said. “It means we will be able to explain the history of art in a more complete manner.”
Schimitschek is a freelance writer.
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