|From Titian to Goya, an exhibition that paints a picture of the development of European art from the 16th century to the early 19th century, is on display at the Shanghai Museum through November 12.
It records the evolution of European art from the Renaissance to contemporary art movement and from the classical touches of Venetian School to the revolutionary trend of Spanish realism.
Most of the masterpieces are coming to Shanghai for their Chinese debut. They include works by Titian, Goya and El Greco and the most notable Flemish artist Rubens, among others.
The exhibition, curated by Juan J. Luna, head of the Department of 18th Century Painting at the Museo del Prado (Prado National Museum) in Madrid, brings together 52 remarkable artworks.
The show, with all the works selected from the precious collections of the Prado National Museum, is considered to be an important event in celebrating the Year of Spain in China, by presenting different periods in European art's development.
"Every one who want to become a painter in Europe gets their first lesson in the Prado National Museum," says Luna. "We hope that this exhibition will become the gateway for those Chinese people who want to know classical art in Spain and the evolution of European art."
The paintings feature various topics including portraits of famous and regal people, portrayals of significant religious and historical events, mythological anecdotes, profane allegories, popular scenes, still-lifes and landscapes.
The first painting that strikes visitors' eyes is a representative work by Titian (1488-1576) from Italy - "Venus with Cupid and an Organ Player." This painting is estimated to be worth US$68.8 million and the most expensive painting exhibited at the show.
With strong characteristics of the Renaissance, the painting depicts a seemingly harmonious scene with Venus, lying on the couch casually, and an organ player has his back toward her. Venus pays no attention to the musician while the musician tries his best to make eye contact with Venus.
As Luna explains, Titian's "Venus series" has symbolic meanings indicating the connection between music and love.
As a significant figure of the Venetian School, Titian created several works of a nude Venus in the company of male musicians. In his painting, the contact between the enamored youth and the goddess reveals something religious.
Visitors will also have the chance to see "Felipe II" by Titian, created circa 1552 to 1553, is the oldest work in this show, and regarded as one of the oldest paintings collected in the Prado.
Goya (1745-1828), El Greco and Diego Velasquez are regarded as the three most famous painters in Spain, especially Goya, who is recognized as the first great painter of the 19th century and the pioneer of contemporary European painting as it developed in the 20th century and most of his works' themes were of revolutionary subjects.
Being respected as such a great master, Goya had a rather extraordinary life. Born into a farmer's family, Goya had a bumpy roads in the art world. He failed twice in the entrance examinations for the Spanish royal art school, yet dramatically became vice president of the school later.
One interesting story has it that in one of his paintings, he painted the royal members like a group of ugly monkeys. However, the royal members never noticed it.
His paintings during his old age were largely dominated by gray and dark colors, presenting a rather horrible visual shock.
However, the works brought to this show are his early works, demonstrating his cheerful and elegant touches.
The work "Parasol" embodies some Chinese elements in the painting, with a woman under the parasol holding an umbrella and a folding fan. It reproduces a popular motif, inspired from the most picturesque aspects of customs and life in Madrid at the time. The fresh and warm coloring, the damsel responding to a gallant flirtation, and the light in the background make this one of Goya's most cheerful paintings.
Having worked in the Prado for 38 years, Luna appreciates the paintings every day and has a strong affection for them. "As time goes by, I sometimes find the figures in the paintings are so intimate, like my family members," he said. "Every painting brings me feel passionate. They make me want to bring them home."
The exhibition is divided into five sections - works from the Venetian school, canvas works from the Italian, Flemish, French and Spanish schools, European paintings during the 17th century, paintings of the 18th century by French, Italian and German schools and an illustration interpreting the historical trail of the Prado National Museum and the composition of its collections.
Established in 1818, the Prado National Museum of Spain actively expanded its art treasures through the incorporation of works from various schools since its opening.