A portrait of of the extraordinary scope and vitality of art in Great Britain since the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century through to the twentieth. This is the essence of this exhibition, whose title, Treasure Island, invokes that of an eminently British writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, being founded on a very simple conviction: namely, that the island has not been explored fully and that it conceals a real treasure in its art, its painting and sculpture, which, like almost every treasure, remains half-hidden, yet to be discovered. The approach with Treasure Island: British Art from Holbein to Hockney has been the notion of places. The idea that lies behind this project is to try to learn what occurred in the arts in Great Britain through five centuries of British art when we enquire into where it was and is instead of what it was and is. A chronicle of British art presents it from the outset as strikingly universal: a considerable number of foreign artists made Great Britain their home and their place of work.
The exhibition presents over 180 pieces – paintings, sculptures, works on paper, books, magazines, manifestos and photographs – produced by more than a hundred different artists, giving an account of the arts in Great Britain that makes manifest the power and particular significance of certain creators and works.
This wealth of art is organised in seven sections, each corresponding to a different era: Destruction and Reformation (1520–1620), Revolution and the Baroque (1620–1720), Society and Satire (1720–1800), Landscapes of the Mind (1760–1850), Realism and Reaction (1850–1900), Modernity and Tradition (1900–1940), and A Brave New World (1945–1980).
Treasure Island: British Art from Holbein to Hockney is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue in both English and Spanish editions. Inspired by the common sense so characteristic of British philosophers, writers and historians, the exhibition and its catalogue aspire to offer a wide-ranging reply to this question, or, more specifically, to the matter of where British art has been since the Reformation. In addition to the main essay by the guest curator, Richard Humphreys, the essays by Tim Blanning and Kevin Jackson analyse the artistic, historical and literary dimensions of a history that is extremely rich in visual terms though perhaps unfamiliar in its details to audiences in Spain. Furthermore, each of the sections of the catalogue – and of the exhibition – includes a selection of texts (some of which have never before been published in Spanish translation) by artists, essayists, historians and literary writers, that offer the reader a fuller sense of the historical and cultural context of the works of art on display.