Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin
Guest curator of a major international exhibition that explored the intertwined histories of art and science, the Americas and Europe from 1492 to 1859. In this period, the depiction of the natural world played a central role in shaping how people on both sides of the Atlantic understood and imaged the region we now know as Latin America. Nature provided incentives for exploration, commodities for trade, specimens for scientific investigation, and manifestations of divine forces. It also yielded a rich trove of representations, created both by natives to the region and visitors. Visual Voyages presented these images not only as works of art but also as instruments for the production of knowledge, with scientific, social, and political repercussions. Early depictions of Latin American nature introduced European audiences to native medicines and religious practices. By the 17th century, revelatory accounts of tobacco, chocolate, and cochineal reshaped science, trade, and empire around the globe. In the 18th and 19th centuries, collections and scientific expeditions produced both patriotic and imperial visions of Latin America. The exhibition argued for the place of Latin America as a critical site for scientific and artistic exploration, affirming that region’s transformation and the transformation of Europe as vitally connected histories.
The exhibition welcomed 34,000 visitors, allowing them to examine first-hand more than 150 rare paintings, printed books, illustrated manuscripts, prints, and drawings from The Huntington’s holdings as well as from dozens of other national and international collections, many of them on view for the first time in the United States—among them a magnificent feather cape created in Brazil in the sixteenth century. The exhibition formed part of the Getty Foundation’s landmark initiative Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America, which resulted in more than eighty exhibitions on Latin American and Latino art in Southern California.
To read more about the exhibition, read the press release, watch a video, or read an excerpt from the introduction to the exhibition’s companion publication that appeared on Verso, the Huntington’s blog.