Private collecting has played an essential role in the history and development of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. This exhibition pays tribute to this cultural practice while also reconstructing one of the most important private collections from the second half of last century, the collection of Félix Fernández-Valdés Izaguirre (Bilbao, 1895–1976), who assembled around 400 works which were scattered into other major collections and institutions after his death.
The curators of this show—María Pilar Silva Maroto, Head of the Department of Conservation at the Museo Nacional del Prado until 2017, and Javier Novo González, Conservation and Research Coordinator at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum—have conducted exhaustive research which is captured in the catalogue, a true historiographic tome on Spanish collecting, and in this exhibition, which for the first time shows a representative selection of works, some of them never before seen, showcasing both their quality and the collecting acuity of this industrialist from Bilbao.
The exhibition Masterpieces from the Valdés Collection will bring together 79 works in the museum's BBK gallery, encompassing an extensive timeframe from the Gothic to the 20th century, including artists the likes of El Greco, José de Ribera, Francisco de Zurbarán, Anton van Dyck, Juan de Valdés Leal, Francisco de Goya, Eduardo Rosales, Mariano Fortuny, Darío de Regoyos, Joaquín Sorolla, Ignacio Zuloaga, Julio Romero de Torres, Vázquez Díaz, Robert Delaunay and Agustín Ibarrola. Most of them are paintings, although a few masterful works of sculpture are also on display, such as the two Baroque carvings by Pedro de Mena, which were believed to be lost until recently.
Many of the works come from the heirs of Félix Fernández-Valdés, but they also come from other private collections—the Abelló, Arango and Botí collections, among others—and from public collections like the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, the Asturias Fine Arts Museum, the National Art Museum of Catalonia, the Valencia Fine Arts Museum and the Museo Nacional del Prado.
Because of its importance, it is essential to highlight a loan from the Prado of the extraordinary Goya painting Portrait of the Marchioness of Santa Cruz, which previously hung in our galleries in 2008 as part of the museum's centennial celebrations.
The Bilbao museum also holds several works which come directly from the Valdés Collection, specifically six paintings by Andries Daniels and Frans Franken the Younger, Juan Carreño de Miranda, Anton van Dyck, Leornardo Alenza, Vicente López, José Gutiérrez Solana and Robert Delaunay, which are naturally also part of this exhibition.