Anyone who had the good fortune to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2003 “Manet/Velázquez” exhibition came away from that remarkable show with a deep understanding of how Diego Velázquez began in the nineteenth century to replace Raphael as the “painter of painters.” (Gary Tinterow’s essay on this subject is highly recommended.) Velázquez (1599–1660), along with Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682), Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), and other Spanish masters, introduced realism where there had been idealism, created brushy surfaces where there had been polish, and found street urchins and old maids to be subjects as worthy as monarchs and Madonnas.

Now at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, “Americans in Spain” takes up many of these ideas, concentrating on the influence of Velázquez on...


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