Rita de Acosta Lydig
Abundant, well-preserved materials relating to the 1916 to 1917 exhibition of paintings by the Spanish artist Ignacio Zuloaga under the auspices of collector, patron, and philanthropist Rita de Acosta Lydig survive in the holdings of the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) libraries and archives, allowing the exhibition and details about its administration to come to life. The Brooklyn Museum Archives hold an extensive number of documents associated with the exhibition, since it was a venue and participated in its planning. In addition to the items in the Brooklyn archives, The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library Archives contain a handful of letters between Lydig and Henry Clay Frick that concern her philanthropy during the First World War.
In 1913, Lydig initiated an exhibition of paintings by her friend and portraitist, Zuloaga. Its catalog has been digitized for the Documenting the Gilded Age project (see illustrations). A true labor of love, Lydig recounted saying to Zuloaga, “The American public should know you better! It has had but one exhibition of your work,” (MacChesney, SM7). By the time of the exhibition in 1916, Zuloaga was known in the United States through a blockbuster 1909 exhibition at the Hispanic Society of America, a 1914 exhibition at the Kraushaar Galleries in New York City, and through encounters with American travelers at his studio in Paris and their subsequent commissions. In light of the aforementioned activities, it can be said that the exhibition organized by Lydig built on the artist’s previously established reputation in America.
Lydig’s exhibition team was composed of Brooklyn Museum Director, William Fox, for his sensational planning of the Swedish art exhibition the year before, and the dealer Joseph Duveen, who she had a close client-dealer relationship (Duveen Brothers. Duveen Brothers Records, 1876-1981, Bulk 1909–1964. Getty Research Institute. Microfilm. 7 Sep 2012.). By examining Fox and Duveen’s records, one can see that Lydig had great foresight in putting together a planning team with complementary talents. They oversaw, together with the artist, who was living in France and Spain, every arrangement for the exhibition. An example of the simple but vital planning communications is a telegram written by Zuloaga to Fox that states, “All the paintings have left,” letting Fox know that he should expect their arrival in New York (Zuloaga, Brooklyn Museum Archives, see illustration).
Success in attendance can be measured by the New York Times article describing the “crush” at the private view of the exhibition at the Duveen Galleries in January 1917, which thousands attended (1,000 See Zuloaga Pictures). Forty-three large canvases in frames designed by the Duveen Galleries were shown (Brooklyn Museum Archives, Department of Painting & Sculpture). A spike in attendance for the exhibition occurred when it was held at the Brooklyn Museum in December of 1916. Approximately 40,000 people visited the museum during the month that the Zuloaga’s exhibition was on view (Park). The one and a half year run of the show was extended to two, and it was seen in galleries and museums across the United States from Boston to San Francisco. Press announcements, publicity, and large-scale openings in each venue assured the notice of a wide public, with one of the openings being attended by the Spanish Ambassador (see illustrations).
Many of the paintings that were included in the exhibition sold. Works went to the Brooklyn Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts (as soon as the exhibition started), and the private collector Mr. C. T. Crocker, who came from a family of prominent California collectors (source unknown). In 1925, Zuloaga put together another traveling exhibition featuring a different set of paintings.
—. “1,000 See Zuloaga Pictures,” New York Times. 11 Jan 1917. Web. 5 Sep 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F60816FE3E5C1B728DDDA80994D9405B878DF1D3>
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Painting & Sculpture: Exhibitions. Paintings By Ignacio Zuloaga under the Auspices of Mrs. Philip M. Lydig [12/06/1916 – 01/01/1917]:  (11/1916-12/1918). Print.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Office of the Director (W.H. Fox, 1913-33). Exhibition: Zuloaga : lenders, (file#625) (1916-1918). Print.
Brooklyn Museum Libraries. The Annual Report of the Brooklyn Museum: Report for the Year 1916 (Brooklyn, N.Y. : The Museum, 1917).
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Brothers Records, 1876-1981, Bulk 1909–1964. Getty Research Institute. Microfilm. 7 Sep 2012.
MacChesney, Clara T. "Zuloaga as Seen by One Who Knows Him Well,” New York Times 21 Jan 1917. Web. 5 Sep 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50914FC3C5E11738DDDA80A94D9405B878DF1D3>
Zuloaga, Ignacio. Telegram to William Fox. Oct 5, 1916. Records of the Office of the Director (W.H. Fox, 1913–33). Exhibition: Zuloaga : lenders, (file #625) (1916-1918). Brooklyn Museum Archives, Brooklyn, NY. Print.