Now available: highlights from the collection of the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico
The Museo de Arte de Ponce has contributed nearly 100 images of its celebrated permanent collection to the Artstor Digital Library.* The selection includes many favorites from the museum best known for its European, Pre-Raphaelite, and Caribbean paintings.
The excellence of the museum’s offerings is illustrated in Artstor by paintings from different schools, as, for example, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s Immaculate Conception, 1660-1678, and Jacopo di Cione’s Annunciation, c. 1375-1380. Murillo’s painting exemplifies the calibre of the museum’s holdings from the Spanish Golden Age, while di Cione’s represents one of the fifteen paintings, mostly Italian, from the Kress Foundation that were added to the growing collection in 1962.
Ponce’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings are widely considered a distinguishing feature. Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June, 1895, and Edward Burne Jones’ monumental Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon, 1881-1898 (21 feet long) anchor the collection, along with ravishing works like the Roman Widow, 1874 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. A less-known attribute of the museum is the selection of American paintings that includes John Frederick Peto’s striking Books on a Shelf, 1907 (above), and the luminous Morning in the Tropics, 1872, by Frederic Edwin Church.
Finally, the prized works by Puerto Rican painters, dating from the 18th century through today, set the collection apart and lend it particular local significance; among them, José Campeche y Jordán’s Lady on Horseback, 1785, and The Battle of Treviño, 1879, by Francisco Oller y Cestero, a relatively recent acquisition.
In 1959, the museum opened in a colonial house in the town of Ponce near San Juan, Puerto Rico with the founding collection of 72 works, notably paintings, belonging to the local industrialist and former governor Luis A. Ferré (1904-2003). Beginning in 1956, Ferré began collecting in Europe with the guidance of two scholars and he presciently acquired works before they peaked on the art market, most effectively from the Pre-Raphaelite school. The museum currently holds about 4,500 works and pursues an active acquisitions policy. It is the most important collection of European art in Latin America, with an emphasis on Spanish Golden Age and Italian Baroque works, in addition to the Pre-Raphaelites, featuring many iconic artists. Equally important is the Puerto Rican art collection, which ranges from the 18th century to the present day and also includes great masters.
In the early 1960s, Ferré commissioned the American Modernist architect Edward Durell Stone to design a new home for the museum which opened in 1965. Stone’s award-winning building was expanded in 2008-2010. In 2017, following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, the museum, virtually unharmed except for the grounds, remained open to the community free of charge.
The Museo de Arte de Ponce collection is being released as part of a thematic launch on major North American museums that will also include selections from the Art Gallery of Ontario: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Norton Simon Museum; the Philadelphia Art Museum; and the Seattle Art Museum.