Juan De'Prey: A Giant Rediscovered
Puerto Rican Artist's Retrospectives in Puerto Rico Rekindle Public's Interest
By: Michael D'Egidio 
First in a Multi Part Series

In his 1978 book on Puerto Rican art titled Painting and Sculpture of the Puerto Ricans,  art historian and writer Peter Bloch included and singled out the work of Juan De'Prey  (1904-1962) in a chapter  "A Giant Discovered". Bloch, who at first was an outsider to the New York Puerto Rican community when he immigrated to the city  in 1949 from Switzerland, was a Sephardic Jew who had a deep respect for Hispanic culture. For Bloch it was natural to attach himself to the Puerto Ricans who were the predominant Hispanic group in the city. What Bloch would do over the course of his life would be to champion Puerto Rican culture as one that deserved dignity and respect, words not often associated with a community that was vilified in the press as New York's "Puerto Rican problem".


     When Bloch uses the term "Discovered" in reference to De'Prey, it may have been with a hint of sarcasm for in the art world of NYC, Juan De'Prey was a well reviewed artist who exhibited regularly during his lifetime.

     That De'Prey was unknown to many in the Puerto Rican community, including upper class and cultured Puerto Ricans Bloch writes; "I did not discover Juan De'Prey. Many art lovers -and especially many North Americans-had admired his paintings before I saw some of them for the first time and before I had the privilege of meeting him. But most Puerto Ricans, even very cultured ones, have not yet heard of him 13 years after his passing; and I find that an alarming symptom of our situation." Perhaps Bloch is writing of the "art ignorance" of the Puerto Rican community in New York, a community that as part of the lower class was too engaged in a struggle for economic survival to be concerned with the "fine arts".  As for the "more cultured ones"; that community perhaps is guilty of a willful neglect of one of their own. Regardless of the lack of recognition among his own, as artists go, Juan De'Prey was relatively well received by critics and was a pioneer among New York City Latinos.

De'Prey at Beau Monde Galleries May 1962