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Luis Meléndez (1715–1780) is now recognized as the premier still-life painter in 18th-century Spain, indeed one of the greatest in all of Europe, though his reputation had long been eclipsed by the achievements of his Spanish contemporary, Francisco Goya. After a precarious beginning to his career, Meléndez received a royal commission in 1771 from the Prince of Asturias (later King Charles IV) to paint a series of still lifes depicting "the four Seasons of the Year, or more properly, the four Elements, with the aim of composing an amusing cabinet with every species of food produced by the Spanish climate." He became an inventive and consummate painter of still-life arrangements, and in 2000 the National Gallery of Art proudly acquired Still Life with Figs and Bread (c. 1770). This exquisite painting will be featured in an exhibition of some 30 canvases that showcase the master’s virtuoso talent for rendering everyday objects with exacting detail, marvelous effects of color and light, and subtle variations of texture. Paintings from the royal commission, including eight from the Museo del Prado in Spain, as well as works from other European collections, will be on view with related works from American collections. Several loans have never before been exhibited in public. Also on display will be period objects—including an 18th-century cork wine cooler, Alcorcón pottery, a lusterware honey pot, and a copper chocolate pot—like those represented in Meléndez’s mesmerizing still lifes.
Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art.
Sponsor: The exhibition is sponsored by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art.
It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
In-kind promotional support for this exhibition has been provided by Chef José Andrés of Jaleo and THINKfoodGROUP.