Cultural Italy Blog: Art, Coffee & Love

Matisse in Rome

March 5th – June 21st
Arabesque: lush colors and Oriental motifs in the work of Henri Matisse. A great exhibition of the French painter in Rome.

The Scuderie del Quirinale Museum in Rome is about to open a new exhibition dedicated to the great French painter Henri Matisse, one of the best known artists of the twentieth century. The show will bring together the most known painter’s works from all over the world. Tate, MET, MoMa, Pushkin, Pompidou, Orangerie, Philadelphia, Washington and, of course, St. Petersburg’s Hermitage, that wards the richest and most important worldwide collection of Matisse’s masterpieces, will share their heritage with the Italian capital for only four months: from March 4th to June 21st. Thus, “Arabesque” will offer to its visitors an incredible and unique artistic journey made of more than one hundred Matisse’s works on display.

The collection will present such masterpieces as “Zorah on the Terrace” (1912), “Moroccan in Green” (1913), “Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg” (1914), “Girl with a Persian Cap” (1915-16) and “The Moorish Screen” (1921).
These and many other exhibited “Arabesque” canvas will be an evocative anthology of vibrant dyes and suggestive motifs borrowed by the painter from Eastern cultures. They will show the way Matisse explores a new theory of colors and space taking advantage of his experience. 

Since the last decade of the XIX century Matisse, in fact, started to be involved with that far (at least at that time) and suggestive part of the world. First, at a distance, without moving from Europe, thanks to his teachers at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and due to his personal interest toward Eastern artifacts. He explored the vast Islamic collection of Louvre, Islamic arts at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, and then, during the World Exhibition of 1900, such Muslim counters pavilions as Turkey, Persia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.

However, the real commencement of Matisse’s Arabesque aesthetics started at the beginning of the XX century: after his trip to Algeria (1906) and ultimately provoked by the great Mohammedan art exhibition in Munich that he attended in 1910. More than eighty rooms full of traditional oriental rugs, embroideries with geometric motifs and evocative fabrics of vivacious colors eclipsed his creativity inspiring the painter for his future art conquest.

Later, in 1912, after a short period in Russia, he returned to Africa: to Morocco. And the quintessential “Matisse Arabesque” begun.
Adventurous life, interest toward oriental aesthetics and endless Matisse’s creativity were molded through years into a revolutionary new artistic vision. Of course, in this sense the oriental taste of his works is fully conceptual and suggestive. It is only a pretext to his radically new expression based on sublimation of colors and ground-breaking understanding of pictorial surface.

In fact, the whole work of the French painter played a crucial role for significant developments in the entire universe of painting. His practice was indeed a revolutionary step within a transition process from the XIX century art toward a radically different world of the XX century. No doubt, Matisse along with his contemporaries such as Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp has pluckily and irreversibly changed the cosmos of art.

So, why not diving into the evocative world of colors and forms depicted by a key-figure of the past century? Why one would miss the unique occasion to explore the vast Matisse anthology collected in one single place?! No worries! This spring all roads lead to Rome!

Maria Novozhilova

twitter: @NovozhilovaM