Letter to Madame Stewart - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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Letter to Madame Stewart

Zamacois, Eduardo

Bilbao, 02/07/1841-Madrid, 12/01/1871

Pencil and brown ink on paper

21.1 x 15 cm

Zamacois (lower right half)


19th century. Third quarter


Acquired in 2005

Although he was born in Philadelphia, William Hood Stewart spend his young adulthood in Cuba overseeing his father's sugar plantation, which he inherited along with a significant fortune. He lived in Philadelphia in the early 1860s, when he began to create an important art collection. In 1865, after the Civil War, he moved to Paris and stayed until his death, where he continued acquiring works of art. By 1873, his collection was considered the top gallery in Paris, and gatherings to discuss artistic topics were held there.

His knowledge of Spanish culture and his fluency in the Spanish language---which he had acquired in Cuba---gave him a natural affinity with Spanish painters. In this regard, his early contact with Eduardo Zamacois, the first Spanish artist whose works joined his collection, was crucial. Furthermore, Stewart became a great patron of Spanish painters and the most important collector of the work of this Bilbao painter and Mariano Fortuny.

Zamacois' relationship with Stewart turned quite personal, as proven in their correspondence, which, as in this case, the painter usually illustrated with elaborate drawings. Not only did he wrote frequent letters to Stewart, but he also did with two of his sons, Robert and especially Jules, and he became the latter's first painting teacher in 1869. He even wrote letters to Stewart's wife, such as this one. The cordial tone of Zamacois' correspondence with the Stewart family became more intimate and affectionate over time, as he reported on his moods and work issues. This is reflected in this drawing, in which just days before dying he wrote several lines that clearly reveal his disappointment at having been separated from the Stewarts in Paris and the boredom he felt in Madrid, the city where he had moved after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. (Javier Novo)

Selected bibliography

  • Zamacois, Fortuny, Meissonier [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2006. p. 209, 215, n° cat. 67.
  • Dibujos, grabados y acuarelas [del] siglo XIX : de Goya a Benlliure : colección Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2007. pp. 158-161, n° cat. 244.
  • Adquisiciones 02/07 [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2007. pp. 32, 36-37, n° cat. 9.