Denver Art Museum Symposium Explores Portraiture in Colonial Americas

Denver Art Museum Symposium Explores Portraiture in Colonial Americas

Portrait paintings are fascinating windows into history. They bring to mind many questions. Who was the person being painted? What do details in the paintings—such as inscriptions, clothing, jewelry, and decorative arts—tell us about the sitter and a particular point in time? What can we learn about the artist from the painting they created? The Denver Art Museum is currently offering numerous opportunities to explore the topic of portraiture.

On January 23-24, 2015 the Denver Art Museum’s Frederick and Jan Mayer Center for Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art will assemble a distinguished panel of speakers at its 14th annual symposium, New England / New Spain: Portraiture in the Colonial Americas, 1492–1850. Tickets available online.

Portraiture was an important art form in the Spanish colony of New Spain (Mexico) and in the British colonies of North America. Speakers from both fields of study will present tandem talks addressing the evolution of portraiture as well as the similarities and differences in the colonial experience of the two regions.

Speakers and Topics Include:

Michael A. Brown (San Diego Museum of Art) "Pieces of Home? How 'Colonial' Portraiture Developed in the Spanish and British Americas;" Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser (The Metropolitan Museum of Art); "The New England Portraits of Ralph Earl: Fashioning a Style for the New Citizens of the Young Republic;" Clare Kunny (Director, Art Muse | Los Angeles, CA) "In His Own Image, A Humanist Portrait of Antonio de Mendoza;" Karl Kusserow (Princeton University Art Museum) "Pride of Place: Selfhood and Surroundings in Early American Art;" James Middleton (Independent Scholar | New York, NY) "Reading Dress in New Spanish Portraiture;"

Paula Mues Orts (National School of Conservation, Restoration and Museography | Mexico City) "Corporate Portrait in New Spain: Social Bodies, the Individual, and their Spaces of Display;" Susan Rather (University of Texas at Austin) "Copies or Resemblances of Nature: The Limitations of Portrait Painting in Colonial British America;" Michael J. Schreffler (Virginia Commonwealth University) "Cortes and Moctezuma: Words, Pictures, and Likeness in Sixteenth-Century New Spain;" Jennifer Van Horn (George Mason University) "Regional Tastes in a Transatlantic Market: Joseph Blackburn in New England and Bermuda;" Kaylin Haverstock Weber (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) "Colonial Ambition Abroad: Benjamin West's Portraits, 1763-1783."

And don’t miss all of the portraits in the galleries.

Be dazzled by Glitterati: Portraits and Jewelry from Colonial Latin America on level 4 in the North Building. During the Spanish Colonial period in Latin America (1521–1850), precious gold and silver were crafted into elegant jewelry then embellished with emeralds from Colombia, coral from Mexico, and pearls from Venezuela. Wanting to demonstrate their wealth and status, people were painted wearing their finest dress and elaborate jewelry.

Want to learn more about western American portraits?

The Petrie Institute of Western American Art will present their annual symposium on January 7, Western Character: Expressions of Identity and Place in Portraiture. Whether photographs, bronze busts, or oil paintings, portraits of people from the American West can function as windows into the region’s culture and history. From the famous to the nameless, each face of the West tells a unique story. Learn more in this blog post.

Explore western American portraits on level 7 of the North Building, as well as within the special exhibition, William Matthews: Trespassing on level 2 of the Hamilton Building.

Image credits

Top (left to right):

Young Woman with a Harpsichord (detail). Mexico, 1735–50. Oil paint on canvas. Collection of Frederick & Jan Mayer; 3.2007.

Francisco Aguirre, Portrait of Francisco Javier Paredes (detail) . Mexico, circa 1800. Oil paint on canvas. Collection of Frederick & Jan Mayer; PTL-10672.

John Smibert, Portrait of Mrs. Hugh Hall (detail). New England, 1733. Oil paint on canvas. Funds from 1983 Collectors’ Choice Benefit, Acquisition Challenge Grant, Mabel Y. Hughes Charitable Trust, Volunteer Endowment, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Atchison, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Benson, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Foxley, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Haines Jr., Mr. and Mrs. William R. James, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick R. Mayer, Mr and Mrs. Robert Petteys, Mr. and Mrs. Walter S. Rosenberry III, Mr. and Mrs. Keith Singer, and anonymous donors; 1984.819.

Middle (left to right):

Juan Rodríguez Juárez, Saint Rose of Lima with Christ Child and Donor Figure (detail). Mexico, about 1700. Oil paint on canvas. Collection of Frederick & Jan Mayer; 145.2005.

Portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez (detail). Mexico, 1770–1780. Oil paint on canvas, gilt wood. Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer; 2013.327.

Diego de Borgraf, Saint Catherine of Alexandria (detail). Puebla, Mexico, 1656. Oil paint on canvas. Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer; 2011.426.­­­­

Julie Wilson Frick is the program coordinator in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum. Julie recommends that visitors don’t miss the Garden Party Folding screen, painted in Mexico around 1725, in the red Spanish Colonial gallery (North Building, level 4).

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