Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World
Francisco Oller (1833–1917) was among the most celebrated painters to emerge from the Caribbean in the nineteenth century. His talents were evident when he was a young artist in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and they were further developed during four sojourns in Europe. There he absorbed and reconfigured the radical styles of Realism, with its democratic approach to everyday subject matter, and Impressionism, with its emphasis on the sensation of spontaneous and momentary effects of light and atmosphere. Together, these movements helped Oller form a unique artistic vision of his native Puerto Rico.
From the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, European and American artists visited the Caribbean and intermingled with their local counterparts, creating a dynamic exchange. The nineteenth century witnessed the development of academies and art schools throughout the Caribbean basin, as well as the arrival of an unprecedented number of foreign painters. These new opportunities for artistic exchange inspired Oller and other Caribbean artists to travel and study in Europe.
Oller responded to the art of his French colleagues, including Gustave Courbet, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, Gustave Caillebotte, and Alfred Sisley, as well as his Spanish contemporaries Mariano Fortuny and Martín Rico y Ortega. Upon his return home, Oller developed his own manner of expression, bringing a distinctive Caribbean sense of place to his still lifes, portraits, and history paintings. He would transmit that style to his pupils and other painters in Puerto Rico and Cuba.
Through more than eighty paintings and works on paper by Oller, his predecessors, and his contemporaries from both sides of the Atlantic, this exhibition places Oller’s contribution into a regional and international context.
Curator of European Art, Brooklyn Museum
Edward J. Sullivan
Helen Gould Sheppard Professor of the History of Art, New York University