The Three Worlds of José Arpa y Perea: Spain, Mexico, and San Antonio

April 18–June 28, 2015

José Arpa y Perea
Spanish, active Spain, Mexico, and the United States, 1860–1952
In the Garden (En el jardin), ca. 1931
Oil on canvas, h. 52 3/4 in. (134 cm); w. 59 1/2 in. (151.1 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by The Betty Stieren Kelso Foundation, 2014.22
Photography by Peggy Tenison

Special Exhibitions Gallery

An acclaimed academic painter in his native Spain who won the Rome Prize three times, José Arpa y Perea (1860–1952) enjoyed an unexpected detour to the Americas after several of his paintings were sent to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 by the Spanish Government. Although he was invited to become director of Mexico’s Academy of Fine Arts, Arpa instead worked independently in Mexico, where he documented the landscape and customs of the country. In the early 20th century, he shifted his attention to San Antonio, eventually becoming one of the city’s most successful painters by the 1920’s. His works were eagerly sought by local collectors and by fledgling institutions, which praised his bold colors, expressive brushwork, and inventive compositions. He returned to Spain in 1931.

This exhibition celebrates the acquisition of two of Arpa’s major paintings: a grand landscape painted at the turn of the 20th century showing a textile factory in Puebla, Mexico, and a moving image of a mother and child in a Spanish garden painted after Arpa’s return from San Antonio. They are joined by works drawn from public and private collections in San Antonio that highlight Arpa’s worldly perspective and fearlessly unconventional views of subjects drawn from the mundane to the historic. Together the works form the story of a painter who played a prominent role in the art worlds of three countries in the early 20th century.

Organized by the San Antonio Museum of Art, the exhibition has been guest-curated for the Museum by A. Kate Sheerin, an independent curator and expert in Texas art.