Matisse. Arabesque

Scuderia del Quirinale – 5th March to 21st June

The Scuderie del Quirinale’s next major exhibition, entitled Matisse. Arabesque, will be showcasing approximetaly 100 paintings, drawings and theatre costumes reflecting Henri Matisse’s entire artistic career. Masterpieces from some of the most prestigious museums in Europe and America will be on display alongside a particularly important contribution from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, which boast two of richest and most significant collections of Matisse’s work in the world.

The exhibition sets out to explore the intense appeal that the East, the Orient, held for a Westerner like Matisse, a revolutionary painter in 20th century art history who was independent of the main historical avant-garde movements. As distant from the perspective stringency of classicism as he was from the formal deconstruction of Cubism, Matisse proved capable of devising a new concept of space by seeking his inspiration in exotic models of ancient, fairy-tale beauty. This exhibition intends to demonstrate how the decorative motifs combined with the charm of the Orient became the primary raison d’être underlying the painter’s radical exploration of painting. From the decorative forms of ancient and distant civilisations Matisse was to grasp the principles for depicting a new spatial environment, thus allowing him to transcend the intimistic painting of 19th century tradition.

Such absolute masterpieces as the Girl with a Persian Cap (1915–16; Jerusalem, Israel Museum), Zorah on the Terrace (1912; Moscow, Pushkin Museum), Moroccan in Green (1912; St. Petersburg, Hermitage); Periwinkles / Moroccan Garden (1912; New York, MoMA) and The Moorish Screen (1917–21; Philadelphia Museum of Art) illustrate Matisse’s extraordinary ability to evoke worlds of ancient and fairy-tale beauty by inventing a painterly space inspired by the decorative traditions of North Africa and the Middle East; while such equally celebrated works as the Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg (1914; Philadelphia Museum of Art) or the Fruit Plate and Flowering Ivy in a Pot With a Rose (1941; Turin, Pinacoteca Agnelli) clearly show how the artist’s gaze extended even as far as the more distant and mysterious cultures of central Africa and the Far East. Matisse’s well-known interest in the world of textile and fabric decoration is explored through his work for the Ballets Russes, when he designed the costumes for the ballet Le Chant du Rossignol staged by Diaghilev’s company to music by Stravinsky with the choreography of Massine in 1920.

Matisse. Arabesque is a complete and many-faceted retrospective showcasing masterpieces which, thanks to their combination with constant visual references to objects from exotic figurative cultures, will allow the visitor to experience the splendour and elegance of ancient worlds enhanced by the visionary, deep and astonishingly contemporary gaze of an artistic genius of the calibre of Henri Matisse.

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