Hacienda La Serrano

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Oil on canvas
55.88 x 124.46 cm
Private collection
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Sugar magnate José Gallart Forgas commissioned Francisco Oller to paint “portraits” of his four sugar mills in 1885. Oller finished two of them, while his student Pío Casimiro Bacener painted the remaining two mills. Hacienda La Serrano is one of those works, and it follows the format of Oller’s two mill paintings, including Hacienda La Fortuna in its horizontal format and large size. Displaying a broad expanse of Caribbean blue sky, Bacener’s painting shows the mill’s buildings grouped around a large area of land. More so than Oller’s paintings, Hacienda La Serrano is nearly encyclopedic in its attention to detail. This adds a documentary element to the painting, one that is more meaningful for the fact that Bacener, who was an Afro-Puerto Rican artist, was born to an enslaved mother who might have worked at a similar sugar mill.