The King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center mourns the loss of Jonathan Brown, who passed away this week. Professor Brown was a mentor, friend and supporter of many generations of faculty and students at NYU, and beyond, who studied the art history of Spain and Latin America. His connection to Spain, and especially to the Prado Museum, and his deep admiration of Spanish culture was palpable in every conversation with him, in every one of his presentations and publications. He brought that expertise to the KJCC when he generously wrote an essay about “The Portrait Art of Hernán Cortés,” whose works were among the first to be exhibited at the Center on the occasion of its inauguration in 1997. In his essay, he writes of encountering Cortés in front of Velázquez’s Las Meninas… exactly where we would expect to find the world’s foremost expert on golden age painting.
I met Professor Brown in 1994 when I was a graduate student at Yale. At the invitation of Robert Lubar and Estrella de Diego, I presented a paper at the curso de verano that Professors Lubar and de Diego had organized on Surrealism in Spain; Professor Brown was the director of the Fundación Duques de Soria, III Seminario de Historia del Arte. He was a luminous presence throughout the seminar and, as I learned later, he was as beloved in Spain as he was at home. It was during this seminar that I was introduced to many of Spain’s leading art historians, some of whom have occupied Chairs at the KJCC (Estrella de Diego and Juan José Lahuerta) and others who have participated in the Center’s programs over the years (Félix Fanès); all of whom developed a vital relationship with NYU because of the international networks of exchange between Spain and NYU that Jonanthan Brown helped to build and nourish over decades.
This year, as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the KJCC, we recall with deep respect and admiration the impact and legacy of Professor Brown. We were fortunate to co-sponsor the event last year in celebration of his publication No solo Velázquez. We share with our community an interview from our “Atrium: Voices from the KJCC” series with Estrella de Diego (King Juan Carlos Chair, Spring 1999), who recalls fondly the importance of Professor Brown to her own ongoing connections with NYU and NYC.