Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin
Art of the Spanish Americas

Carl & Marilynn Thoma Associate Curatorship of Spanish Colonial Art

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin and The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation announce the establishment of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Associate Curatorship of Spanish Colonial Art at the Blanton. Underwritten by the Thoma Foundation, the position correlates to a long-term loan to the Blanton of works from the Thomas’ distinguished collection of Spanish colonial art. The Thoma Foundation will also support short-term research grants for visiting scholars, available through the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection (LLILAS Benson). 

This initiative has catalyzed multidisciplinary collaborations across campus. The Blanton and the Thoma Foundation, in partnership with LLILAS Benson, have developed a program that will focus on displaying, teaching, and researching the artistic production of the Spanish colonial period. The overarching goal of this unique national model is twofold: to share material from the Thoma, Blanton, and Benson collections with both students at UT and broader audiences, and to work across campus to impact scholarship in the field both at the university and on a national and international stage.

“We are thrilled to share these beautiful and impactful works of art from the Thoma Collection with UT and the community,” remarks Blanton Director Simone Wicha. “I am deeply grateful to Carl and Marilynn Thoma for this transformative gift and the loan of works from their collection, which provides new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration and programming at the university. These collaborations have already taken shape across campus, bringing together a remarkable community of scholars around an area of study that has historically been under-examined. As a university, we are excited to support scholarship in this important field and lay the foundation for building a strong collection of Spanish colonial art at UT.”

Dr. Rosario I. Granados, a curator and lecturer in the field of Spanish colonial art and religious material culture, has been appointed as the Carl & 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 the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas (UNAM, Mexico).

Marilynn Thoma says, “Carl and I are confident in the potential of this campus-wide, interdisciplinary initiative to strengthen The University of Texas’ international leadership position as a cultural resource and academic center for Latin American art. The Blanton’s links with LLILAS Benson and other departments across campus will provide an important multi-disciplinary setting that will help foreground a comprehensive approach to the study of Spanish colonial art in the context of the larger, burgeoning field of Latin American art.”

As expressed in the mission statement for their foundation, Carl and Marilynn Thoma “believe passionately in the power of art to enrich life, to teach and to deepen understanding of the cultures, places and times of which we are a part”⎯goals shared by the Blanton. The partnership between the Blanton and the Thoma Foundation first began in 2008, with the Blanton’s presentation of The Virgin, Saints, and Angels: South American Paintings 1600—1825 from the Thoma Collection, organized by the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. In 2014, the Blanton organized Re-Envisioning the Virgin Mary: Colonial Painting from South America, an installation of Spanish colonial paintings featuring works from the Thoma Collection.

Two galleries dedicated to art from the Spanish Americas will be included in the Blanton’s reinstallation of its permanent collection, scheduled to open to the public February 12, 2017. The galleries will feature paintings on loan from the Thoma Collection along with bibliographical materials from the Benson Collection, and works from other private collections, and will mark the first time in its history that the Blanton has dedicated permanent gallery space to art from the Spanish colonial period. The second rotation of these galleries in spring 2018 will coincide with LLILAS Benson’s annual Lozano Long Conference, which that year will be dedicated to showcasing the most recent scholarship on Spanish colonial art and visual culture. By emphasizing interdisciplinary collaboration, the aim of this academic gathering will be to highlight the relevance of this period to the contemporary world and the different theoretical perspectives available for its study.

Also during the 2018 spring semester, Dr. Gabriela Siracusano will join the university as a Tinker Visiting Professor in Spanish colonial art and visual culture appointed through LLILAS Benson. She will teach a course addressing the history and materiality of paintings from this period.

Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Director of LLILAS Benson remarks, “This is a unique collection that eloquently conveys not only a sense of the Spanish colonial visual aesthetic, but also provides a strong sense of the time and place from which these pieces came. It is a singular and mesmerizing collection.”

The long-term loan of works from the Thoma Collection to the Blanton will be critical to the cultivation of a strong body of research on Spanish colonial art, and will strengthen collaborative relationships between UT and other research institutions. While the majority of the 26 works on loan from the Thoma Collection will be on view at the Blanton, a small number of works will be available to faculty from departments across campus for pedagogical purposes.

Short-term research grants, also supported by the Thoma Foundation, will be made available through LLILAS Benson to scholars, curators, and PhD students (preferably but not exclusively from Latin America) interested in the study of Spanish colonial art and culture. Thoma Visiting Scholars in Spanish Colonial Art will travel to Austin for three-week stays devoted to research on the Benson, Blanton, and Thoma collections, which together provide unique opportunities for comparative research on colonial Mexican and Andean art, among other topics.

The College of Liberal Arts at UT (COLA) will lend generous support to the faculty side of the initiative, with additional support provided by the College of Fine Arts (COFA) and the School of Architecture. Susan Deans-Smith, Associate Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of History at COLA, has been instrumental in thinking through the initiative as it relates to UT faculty, and serves as faculty coordinator for the project. She and Granados lead a Working Group comprised of faculty members from the departments of art history, history, architecture, and anthropology, as well as Blanton curators, LLILAS Benson staff, and UT students, whose purpose is to facilitate awareness of the vast resources available to students and scholars for the study of this subject at the university. With this goal in mind, they will explore available options for establishing a long-term teaching program in this burgeoning field.