Claude Monet La Méditerranée, (Cap d’Antibes), 1888
Óil over canvas  65,09 × 81,28 cm
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Bequest of Frederick W. Schumacher  Inv. 1957.061.064

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Fundación MAPFRE presents the exhibition entitled Rediscovering the Mediterranean in Madrid, consisting of around 140 works by well-known artists such as, among others, Renoir, De Chirico, Sorolla, Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Vincent van Gogh. This exhibition has been possible thanks to the support of more than 70 lenders, as well as the generosity of several private collections that have loaned their extraordinarily high-quality art. Until 13 January 2019 at Paseo de Recoletos, 23.

On 5 October, Fundación MAPFRE presented the Rediscovering the Mediterranean exhibition, which takes us on a tour of the painting and sculpture towards the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century that converted the Mediterranean into a driving force for the renewal of art.

The Mediterranean, the main protagonist of this exhibition, thus becomes the symbol of a reconciliation with the past and a space for artistic freedom in the creation and evolution of modern art. In one way or another, the artists featuring in this exhibition used the Mediterranean, its waters and its culture, as one of the main motifs in their compositions.

This exhibition, boasting 138 artworks, begins with the Spanish section, where the coast is, on occasion, a place of work, but more frequently shows itself to be a space for pleasure, bathing and playfulness, all of which are typical scenes in the works of artists such as Joaquin Sorolla, Cecilio Pla and Ignacio Pinazo, to name a few.

However, being born in the Mediterranean also seems to bestow certain marked characteristics. This was how it was understood by noucentisme in Catalonia, with Joaquín Torres-García and Joaquim Sunyer at the helm. These artists created a national ethos and imagery through their depiction of tranquil and harmonious landscapes, and a simple and natural life handed down through an unchanging antiquity.

The vision of this world, idealized by the Catalan artists Joaquim Mir and Hermen Anglada Camarasa during their stays in Mallorca is closer to that of the French painters. In this respect, the island becomes a symbol of this much yearned-for Arcadia, as well as a place where they experiment with pure colors and allow themselves to be seduced by nature and where they search for clear light. This is the same experience Monet had on arriving in Bordighera, as well as that of Signac in Saint-Tropez and Derain in L’Estaque, Braque before cubism, Renoir in Les Collettes and Pierre Bonnard in Le Cannet. However, for Italians such as De Chirico, Carlo Carrá and Massimo Campligi, with whom the exhibition route continues, the Mediterranean seems more like a kind of idea: a concept which presides over their painting style and undoubtedly lends itself to a reunion with classicism and its roots.

Both Matisse and Picasso’s works, with whom the exhibition closes, bring together aspects of all the previously cited painters, as if with these artists the Mediterranean could be said to have reached its pinnacle. We can sense the tranquility of Matisse’s compositions, with his love of painting and life itself. We can also observe the ambivalence of Picasso’s works: sometimes narratives, and at once classical and primitive, where he demonstrates all the aggressiveness and the melancholy of the artist and of life. While Matisse celebrates nature, Picasso does not seem to find his resting place and switches styles, searching, and ultimately not finding, pleasure in the painting. This is the dialectic that we find at the heart of classicism, a language to which artists return over and over again while also opening themselves up to modernity.

The exhibition, produced by Fundación MAPFRE, has only been possible with the support and collaboration of more than 70 lenders. We would like to highlight the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée national Picasso-Paris, the Musée Matisse Nice, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, the Columbus Museum of Art or the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto. The generosity and extraordinary willingness of the private collections to lend us their extremely high-quality pieces of art has also been an essential component.

This exhibition forms part of the international Picasso-Mediterranean project, a Musée national Picasso-Paris initiative. This program of exhibitions, activities and scientific exchanges is being carried out between 2017 and 2019 and more than 70 international institutions are taking part: www.picasso-mediterranee.org