Opening Saturday at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, A Feast For the Eyes: European Masterpieces From the Grasset Collection is an exhibition of 40 baroque-era oil paintings – brilliant, beautiful and lyrical works from the likes of 17th and 18th century masters van Dyck, Canaletto, Brueghel the Elder, de Velde and others.
The masterworks are from the private collection of Juan Manuel Grasset, of Madrid, Spain. The 90-year-old art collector attended a media preview of the exhibition, accompanied by several members of the extended Grasset family, Thursday.
His daughter Christina explained that the St. Pete visit is only the second time Grasset’s collection has gone on loan in the United States; indeed, it was previously at the San Diego Museum of Art, in 2016.
Christina Grasset detailed the collection’s backstory: “My father bought these paintings over the course of 50 years. I think there are four Spanish painters, but everything else is Dutch and Flemish. Or Italian. And so he would buy these paintings in London, or in Paris, and then bring them back to his home in Madrid.”
Over the course of many years, she continued, “like any true collector, it’s very difficult for them to stop! They will see another painting, they fall in love, and they have to have it. My parents have a fairly large home in Madrid, but we got to a point where the paintings were on the floor and stacked against the walls.
“It took a very long time to convince him to part with the paintings, because they’re objects that he loves. But we finally convinced him that they would be much better in a museum. And this is where the paintings look their best.”
Frail and wheelchair-bound, but smiling and looking dapper nonetheless, Juan Manuel Grasset offered a quick compliment to the Museum of Fine Arts. “I think I never saw the collection as brilliantly displayed as it is here,” he said.
The Grasset collection consists almost entirely of landscapes and still lifes of flowers, fruit bowls and laden banquet tables, along with other bounties. MFA Curator of Exhibitions and Collections Stanton Thomas asked Grasset about this. “None of the grand traditions of Spanish portrait portraiture, or religious paintings or battle scenes appealed to him,” Thomas said. “He has almost no images of people.”
Thomas – and others who’ve examined and thought deeply about the collection – developed a theory. “The thought is that these very beautiful, very lyrical, very escapist pictures might be a reflection of his youth, which was during a very difficult time,” the curator explained. “It was right after World War II, there wasn’t a lot around. These are kind of a reaction to the hardships of his youth.
“There’s a beautiful logic to the paintings – people enjoying themselves out in the country, or beautiful flowers, or feasts. They would have been an enormous contrast to what people would have experienced in post-World War II Spain.”
Thomas will conduct a Gallery Talk on the exhibition from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 24.
A Feast For the Eyes: European Masterpieces From the Grasset Collection will remain at the museum through July 28.
And now, this
Of course, the 2nd annual St. Petersburg Tiny Home Festival is Saturday and Sunday. Everything you need to know is here.
Nice cross-section of popular music this weekend, including country legend Clint Black (tonight at the Mahaffey), Chicago (or what’s left of the band that was once the mighty Chicago) at Ruth Eckerd Hall tonight, and yet another country star, Brad Paisley (Valspar Live! at the Osprey Driving Range in Palm Harbor Saturday – details here).
The Palladium’s got the Boogie Woogie Blues Piano Stomp Saturday (here’s what we wrote about it) and country’s Mickey Gilley Sunday.
Check these out: Gypsy Star (folk/pop singer/songwriters Billy Keen and Belinda Brodsky) perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Creative Soul Studio, accompanied by Rebecca Zapen on violin; downstairs at the Iberian Rooster Saturday (9 p.m. start time), it’s Ella Jet & Future Soul, with Side Hustle and Vetnough.
The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay joins the Florida Orchestra Saturday night at the Mahaffey Theater (and again Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall) for Hadyn’s epic The Creation (“from first light to the Garden of Eden”). Michael Francis conducts; soloists are Madison Leonard, soprano; Zach Finkelstein, tenor; Michael Dean, bass.
Onstage this weekend: The drama Crumbs From the Table of Joy is new starting Saturday at freeFall Theater, and American Stage is going strong with the dark comedy The Roommate.