Nostalgia for My Island: Puerto Rican Painting at the Allentown Art Museum

Miguel Pou y Becerra (1880-1968), Landscape in Barranquitas #7 (detail) / 
Paisaje de Barranquitas #7 (detalle), 1949, oil on canvas, Museo de Arte de Ponce. 
The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc. Gift of Jaime Pou.

During the first six decades of the twentieth century, Puerto Rican artists developed a distinctive painting tradition. Their work focused on themes such as home, landscape, and the Puerto Rican people, establishing an artistic movement that celebrated cultural identity.

Through April 28, 2024

Preserving Puerto Rican culture took on new urgency after the United States’ annexation of the island in 1898 and the economic and political shifts that followed. Concerned that traditional ways of life were disappearing, many artists created idealized portrayals of the jíbaro, or independent farmer, who became an icon of “Puerto Rican-ness.” Other artists chose to document changing realities on the island, such as the poverty resulting from the decline of small-scale agriculture and mass migration to cities.

Carlos Marichal, “Casa en Yauco”, 1956-1957, óleo sobre lienzo, Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Nostalgia for My Island explores this innovative period in Puerto Rican art through twenty exceptional works from the Museo de Arte de Ponce (MAP). The exhibition highlights a rich array of approaches and voices, including paintings by earlier Puerto Rican masters José Campeche y Jordán (1751-1809) and Francisco Oller y Cestero (1833-1917), whose work offered inspiration to twentieth-century artists.

Bringing these treasures from MAP’s collection to a mainland audience for the first time, Nostalgia for My Island celebrates a key epoch in Puerto Rican painting. This movement’s spirit and enduring power are perhaps best expressed in the words of leading artist Miguel Pou y Becerra (1880-1968): “An artist is a true patriot who fights and strives to leave the legacy of his dreams to his homeland. . . . The ideal that has mainly oriented my work has been to represent the soul of my country.”

Waldemar Morales (1931-2010), Landscape, View of San Germán / Paisaje, vista de San Germán, 1957, oil on canvas / óleo sobre lienzo, 25 11/16" x 32," 
Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Nostalgia for My Island is organized by the Museo de Arte de Ponce. The presentation of this exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum is supported through the generosity of the Bernard and Audrey Berman Foundation and the Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment.