Painter and musician. As a painter, he was known for his impressionistic landscapes of Puerto Rico that give us a clear vision of the rural and daily life of Puerto Ricans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jordán was a disciple of painter Francisco Oller y Cestero. He was a nearly unknown artist until 1981, when some of his works were found in storage at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
Manuel Eustacio Jordán González was born in San Juan on March 29, 1853, the son of Angel Jordán Santamaría, a Venezuelan and a tailor by profession, and Irene González, a Puerto Rican. As a child, he studied music under the tutelage of Felipe Gutiérrez Espinosa. He played various instruments, including the flute, the violin, the organ and the piano. As an adult, he was the director of the choir at the San Juan Bautista Cathedral, sang baritone in religious services and played violin in the orchestra of the San Juan Theater, known today as the Tapia Theater.
In 1868, he enrolled at the Puerto Rico Free Academy of Art, founded by painter Francisco Oller y Cestero, who worked in both realist and impressionist styles, and became one of Oller’s most outstanding disciples, along with Pío Casimiro Bacener, with whom he became close friends. From Oller, he first learned to draw in the classic style. After mastering that skill, he began to learn to paint and stood out for his ability to master techniques of perspective and use of light.
Jordán married Magdalena del Rosario Viera in 1879 and they settled in the Santurce sector of San Juan. He made a living by giving music and art lessons in his home and by teaching at the Pedro Moczó High School, a private school.
In 1882, he exhibited his work Un plano de banderas at the Ponce Fair and Exposition. Later, in 1893, he displayed nine works at the art contest held as part of the Fourth Centennial of the Discovery of Puerto Rico. He won the bronze medal and his teacher, Francisco Oller, won the gold medal.
His work, like that of most of the artists of his era, tried to define the characteristics of Puerto Rican identity. The island’s landscapes were his main inspiration. The characters in his work played a secondary role to the landscape. They were small, almost miniature, and generally impressionistic in style. Among his works are Escenas de la Guerra Hispanoamericana de 1898, Escena de río, La casa del techo rojo, La casa de dos aguas, Paseo de palmeras, Ingenio azucarero, Regreso de la faena, Sector San Mateo, La casa de dos aguas, La casa del techo rojo, Paseo de Palmeras, Desde la Muralla, Palo Seco, Cangrejos, Calle de Cataño and Casa solitaria.
Manuel E. Jordán died in his home city on August 7, 1919, due to chronic enteritis. After his death, he was nearly forgotten and was only known as a disciple of Francisco Oller. Only five of his paintings were known. However, in 1981, about twenty works by Jordán were found in storage at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, including oil paintings on wood, drawings, watercolors and wash drawings. These works had been part of the collection belonging to Roberto Ludwing Junghanns, a native of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States, who settled in Puerto Rico in the early part of the century and invested a large part of his fortune in acquiring artworks and other historical materials related to the island. After his death in 1946, the collection passed to the ownership of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
After the works were restored and preserved, the Institute held an exhibit in 1984 to present the rediscovered works. Today, about fifty in total have been found and authenticated.
Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. Homenaje a Manuel E. Jordan 1853-1910. Catálogo de la exhibicion, 1984.
Orlando, José Francisco. “Apuntes biográficos de Manuel E. Jordán”. Revista Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, año 24, núm. 87, ene-mar 1985: 27-32.
Gran Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 03, 2014.
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