King Louis-Philippe of France opened the Louvre's Galerie Espagnole in 1838, placing 400 paintings by Spanish masters before a French public largely ignorant of the art of their neighbors.
Already in thrall to Raphael's idealized, linear perfection, French artists discovered in the Spanish spiritual passion, frank naturalism, and bravura paint-handling. It was this fruitful collision of cultures that gave rise to the Realist movement in France and, through it, the birth of the Modern.
Central to this story is Diego Velázquez, the greatest Spanish painter of the 17th century, and his decisive influence on the work of that French innovator Edouard Manet. Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting, opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on March 4, also ventures beyond that primary conjunction, pairing canvases by such artists of the Spanish Golden Age as Murillo, Ribera, El Greco, and Zurbarán with those by the vaunted French artists Delacroix, Courbet, Millet, and Degas.