The Blanton Museum of Art announced Wednesday that, thanks to a major gift from a private foundation, the University of Texas museum will significantly expand its focus to include Spanish colonial art.
A donation from the Chicago-based Carl and Marilynn Thoma Foundation will fund a full-time curator position devoted to Spanish colonial art. And a long-term loan agreement will see the Blanton receive many Spanish colonial paintings from the Thoma Foundation’s collection.
The collection’s paintings span the 17th to 19th centuries and were created in Latin America by both indigenous artists and Spanish colonists.
Additionally, the donation brings funds to support research grants and other scholarly programs that will be collaboratively administered between UT’s Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
Two galleries will be dedicated to art from the Spanish Americas when the Blanton unveils the reinstallation of its permanent collection in February, marking the first time that the Blanton will have permanent gallery space dedicated to Spanish colonial art, including paintings from the Thoma Foundation collection.
The initiative represents a major expansion of the Blanton’s scholarly focus.
While the Blanton has long been well regarded internationally for its modern and contemporary Latin American collection, it hasn’t had the resources to include collection materials of earlier eras of art from the Americas.
In 1963, decades before most North American or European museums considered Latin American art to be anything beyond folk art, UT’s Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery — predecessor to the Blanton — initiated collecting in the field.
By 1988, the Blanton had become the first museum in the United States to establish a curatorial position devoted solely to Latin American art. For many years, the museum’s collection stood as one of the foremost of its kind outside Latin America, and UT built a strong art history program in tandem.
In a written statement, Blanton Director Simone Wicha said: “We are thrilled to share these beautiful and impactful works of art from the Thoma Collection with UT and the community. I am deeply grateful to Carl and Marilynn Thoma for this transformative gift and the loan of works from their collection.”
The Blanton has appointed Rosario I. Granados, a curator and lecturer in the field of Spanish colonial art and religious material culture, as the Carl and Marilynn Thoma associate curator of Spanish colonial art. Granados has taught extensively on material culture, art, gender and religion in Latin America and has recently held positions at Skidmore College, the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago and Mexico’s Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas.
The partnership between the Blanton and the Thoma Foundation dates to 2008 when the museum first exhibited paintings from the foundation’s collection. Last year, the Blanton used the collection to organize an exhibit on Virgin Mary colonial paintings in South America.
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin has been covering Austin’s arts scene for 17 years.