On February 17, 2018, the San Antonio Museum of Art will present San Antonio 1718: Art from Viceregal Mexico. The exhibition tells the story of San Antonio’s first century through 120 landscapes, portraits, narrative paintings, sculptures, and devotional and decorative objects. Throughout, the works pose identities that are in continuity and tension with mainland Spain, while revealing the lives and times of San Antonio’s earliest inhabitants. The exhibition will be on view until May 13.
“This year, while we’re celebrating San Antonio’s 300th anniversary, we’re excited to share the first hundred years of San Antonio through art,” said Katie Luber, Director of the Museum.
Three hundred years ago, the city of San Antonio was founded as a strategic outpost of presidios and missions, both defending the colonial interests of northern New Spain and advancing Christian conversion. The city’s five missions bear architectural witness to the time of their founding, but these structures do little to tell the stories of those who lived in the city, and whose political or religious power determined its past and its present.
Highlighting the city’s deep cultural ties with Mexico, San Antonio 1718 features works by New Spain’s most important eighteenth-century painters, including Cristόbal de Villalpando (1649- 1714), Miguel Cabrera (1695-1768), and José de Páez (1720-1790), as well as decorative arts and sculptures by sometimes still unidentified artists.
The exhibition includes portraits that reflect the political and economic power of the Spanish viceroys and military leaders who helped shape the destiny of the city. It also explores the tireless Franciscan missionaries who evangelized the region. One, Fray Antonio Margil de Jésus, who became known as the “Patron Saint of Texas,” is featured along with the religious figures who anchored these missionaries’ teachings, such as the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception and her American manifestation, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Other works are more personal: portraits of poised young women whose marriages will solidify their social status; aspirational paintings of young families at home; nuns depicted at the threshold of their vows or at their death; intimate miniatures of lovers and soldiers; and post- mortem portraits of infants, memorializing a family’s loss.
“Putting this exhibition together was like a five-year treasure hunt in the great museums and private collections of Mexico that hold works that bring our city’s early years to life,” said Marion Oettinger Jr., Curator of Latin American Art and the exhibition.
The exhibition includes many works on loan that have never been shown in the U.S., as well as items drawn from the Museum’s collection. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with original essays by five renowned specialists in the history and art history of northern New Spain.
San Antonio 1718 is presented in collaboration with Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH).
The exhibition was generously funded by Bexar County, the William and Salomé Scanlan Foundation, Patsy Steves, and Myfe White Moore. This exhibition is supported by the City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture. Support for the San Antonio 1718catalogue was provided by the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts.
About the San Antonio Museum of Art:
The San Antonio Museum of Art serves as a vibrant forum for exploring and connecting with art that spans the world’s geographies, artistic periods, genres, and cultures. Its collection contains nearly 30,000 works representing 5,000 years of history. Housed in the historic Lone Star Brewery on the Museum Reach of San Antonio’s famed Riverwalk, the San Antonio Museum of Art is committed to promoting the rich cultural heritage and life of the city. The Museum hosts hundreds of events and public programs each year, including concerts, performances, tours, lectures, symposia, and interactive experiences. As an active civic leader, the Museum is dedicated to enriching the cultural life of the city and the region, and to supporting its creative community. www.samuseum.org