A Visit to Francisco Oller Art Museum

Located in the city of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the Francisco Oller Museum is housed in the charming neoclassical building that at one time served as the Bayamon City Hall. Named in honor of renowned Puerto Rican artist, Francisco Manuel Oller Cestero, the museum features fascinating memorabilia relating to the city’s history, arts and sports, as well as some superb examples of the artist’s works along with the works of other local artists, such as Puerto Rican sculptor Tomas Batista.

Francisco Oller is considered to be the only painter of Latin American origin to play a role in the development of impressionism. He later developed an interest in highlighting the beauty of Puerto Rico’s landscape, the warmth of its people and the depth of its culture through his works of art. Today, his works of art are found in museums all over the world, including the prestigious Louvre in Paris, France, considered to be the world’s most famous and most visited art museum.

Born in Bayamon on 17 June 1833, Francisco Oller was the third of four children in his family. He displayed artistic talent at a young age, and at the age of eleven he began to study art under the tutelage of artist Juan Cleto Noa at his art academy in San Juan. His enormous talent was soon recognized and in 1848 the Governor of Puerto Rico, General Juan Prim, offered him the opportunity to continue his studies in Rome. However, as he was only fifteen years old at the time, his mother considered him to be too young and turned the offer down.

At the age of eighteen, Oller moved to Madrid, Spain, in order to study painting at the Royal Academy of San Fernando. His mentor in Madrid was the director of the Prado Museum, Don Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz. In 1858, Oller moved to Paris, France, and studied under Thomas Couture for a time. He also enrolled in art classes in the Louvre, where he was instructed by Gustave Courbet. In 1859, a number of Oller’s works were exhibited alongside those of French impressionist painters Jean Frédéric Bazille, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet, as well as English-born impressionist landscape painter Alfred Sisley.

In 1868, Francisco Oller founded the Free Academy of Art of Puerto Rico, and in 1884 he established the Universidad Nacional, an art school exclusively for young women. He was honored by Spain in 1871, by being named as a member of the “Caballeros de la Orden de Carlos III” and he later became the official painter for the Royal Court of Amadeo I, who served as King of Spain between 1870 and 1873. He later returned to Puerto Rico and died in San Juan on 17 May 1917.

A number of places have been named in honor of Francisco Oller, including a high school in Catano, and a library in the School of Plastic Arts in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Francisco Oller and Diego Rivera Museum of Art in Buffalo, New York, also pays homage to this Puerto Rican artist who certainly made an unforgettable impression on the art world.