Spanish Masterpieces Gathered in Bishop Auckland’s ‘Prado of the North’ | Paint
Two towering examples of Spanish religious art, separated by 350 years but with as many parallels as contrasts, have been brought together in the unlikely setting of a ‘left behind’ post-industrial market town in northeastern Spain. England.
Bishop Auckland’s Spanish Gallery is becoming something of a ‘Prado of the North’, some say, and while that may be a slight exaggeration, there is certainly art on display there, as one cannot see it nowhere else than the gallery in Madrid. .
This weekend, visitors will be able to see together for the first time two devotional masterpieces: the Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí, painted in 1951, very reproduced, alongside the Christ on the Cross of El Greco, which dates from the first decade of the 17th century.
“It’s quite amazing, isn’t it,” said curator Morlin Ellis in front of Dalí’s painting. “It affects people in so many ways. I have known this painting since I was eight years old because a copy was on the stairs of our GP’s house. It’s the first time I’ve seen him in person. »
The Dalí is a superstar at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, ably bought in 1952 by then director Tom Honeyman. It can now claim “to be one of the most famous images of the 20th century,” Ellis said.
Duncan Dornan, Glasgow Museums and Collections Manager, said that exhibiting “this precious painting in a new way allows us to broaden our understanding of the incredible artist. It will be presented again at Kelvingrove in early 2023.”
The Dalí is displayed next to an El Greco bought by the founder of the Spanish Gallery, Jonathan Ruffer, in 2015. It shows the moment from the Gospel of Saint Matthew when Christ looks up and says: “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”
Side by side, the similarities and contrasts between the paintings quickly become clear. El Greco’s work drips with blood; he wants the viewer to feel the pain of Christ. Dalí’s Christ has no nails, no blood; the artist wants to elevate the nobility of the crucifixion.
The two artists may be 350 years apart, but they have a lot in common, the curators say. They are two of the most original and idiosyncratic artists in Western art history, Ellis said, and they “both had an insatiable desire for knowledge in all fields.”
She hopes the exhibit will spark lively discussions among visitors.
The Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland was opened last year by Prince Charles and the Queen of Spain. Its exhibitions have been bolstered by generous loans, including two works by Murillo – one from Woburn Abbey and the other, Three Boys, from the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
The collection includes three works by Juan Bautista Maíno, not a household name but incredibly important, Ruffer said. “He is the link between Caravaggio and Velázquez. He was painter to the king.
Ruffer is an avowed ‘city dweller’, a millionaire financier who wanted to return to his North East England roots and help regenerate Bishop Auckland.
The journey began because remarkable Zurburán paintings that have hung in Auckland Castle since 1756 were sold 20 years ago by church commissioners.
Ruffer’s £15 million interjection ended this and thus began a wider cultural regeneration project including the restoration of the castle and its opening as a tourist destination; and the opening of a mining art gallery, the Spanish Gallery, a deer park and Kynren, which uses a 3-hectare (7.5-acre) stage for London Olympic-style live shows telling the story of the history of Great Britain.
Bishop Auckland, like many northern towns since the mines closed, is a place that has seen better days. But he has so many upsides, Ruffer said, and Dalí’s loan from Glasgow is an important step in the regeneration journey.
“It puts the cat as a catalyst,” joked Ruffer, “as well as among the pigeons.”