Giovanni Boldini
Place Clichy, 1874
Oil on canvas 60 × 98 cm
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This exhibition focuses for the first time on this Italian artist’s painting while also establishing a dialogue with that of other Spanish painters who were part of the Paris of the Belle Époque, such as Mariano Fortuny y Marsal, Raimundo de Madrazo, Joaquín Sorolla, Rogelio de Egusquiza and Martín Rico.

Fundación MAPFRE has presented in Madrid the exhibition entitled Boldini and late 19th century Spanish painting. The spirit of an age, open to the public until 12 January 2020 in the Recoletos Exhibition Hall (Paseo de Recoletos, 23).

The exhibition, curated by Francesca Dini and Leyre Bozal Chamorro, presents the work of the painter Giovanni Boldini (Ferrara, 1842 – Paris, 1931), the most important and prolific of the Italian artists living in Paris during the second half of the 19th century, alongside pieces from some of the Spanish painters also residing in the French capital during the same period. A dialog is established between their paintings and those of this native of Ferrara.

Boldini and late 19th century Spanish painting illustrates the Italian painter’s artistic path from his time in Florence, through to his Parisian years where he spent most of his life, to his arrival in New York city as a renowned and prestigious painter.

The exhibition has been organized into six sections. The first section, Boldini in Florence: the invention of the Macchiaiolo portrait, focuses on his years in Florence and his relationship with the Macchiaioli. This was a group of painters who sought to paint in a naturalistic way and contributed significantly to the renewal of genre and portrait painting, as seen in Mary Donegani.

Boldini’s initial French style  introduces us to the works that he carried out between 1871 and 1879. During this period, this painter from Ferrara, influenced by the detailed style of Meissonier and Fortuny, works on small paintings representing traditional scenes which usually featured Berthe, his model for over 10 years. Icon-paintings of that period express the well-being achieved by certain sectors of society, as was the case for the bourgeoisie, during the Third Republic.

In Echoes of Boldini in Spanish fin-de-siècle painting we can view a series of works by Spanish painters who arrived in France in the last three decades of the 19th century. with the intention of entering the École des Beaux-Arts During this period there was considerable appetite for paintings of a traditional and agreeable nature, with an abundance of scenes set in the 17th and 18th century, as well as interior scenes and those of a popular, anecdotal nature although landscapes and scenes of the outdoors also became increasingly popular. In this section, the painting Playa de Portici stands out as his most important landscape and one of the last to be depicted by this painter from Reus.

Between 1880 and 1890, Boldini established himself as a painter of Modern life, the title given to the exhibition’s fourth section. During this period the Ferrara native depicts the city of Paris in all its splendor. He also paints colorful half-length female portraits that constitute a gallery of faces and social types from Parisian society. These aspects of Boldini’s output reveal his close personal ties with the Spanish colony active in Paris and in particular with Raimundo de Madrazo.

Both Zuloaga and Sorolla specialized in the elegant portraits brought together in the following section dedicated to Spanish painting. Influenced by the tradition of Velázquez, they were, together with Sargent, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Antonio de la Gándara, Jacques-Émile Blanche and Giovanni Boldini among the most important portraitists of the Belle Èpoque period, at a time when, at the fin de siécle, this genre was a form of social recognition.

The exhibition draws to a close with Boldini, portraitist of the Belle Époque, where, in addition to his portraits of Cleo de Merode, the painter Whistler and Madame Veil Picard, we can observe still lifes, studies of hands or of dancers carried out with increasingly freer and more dynamic brushstrokes, and where spontaneity and movement reign supreme.

This exhibition, produced by Fundación MAPFRE, includes loans from more than seventy public and private institutions, including the Galleria Nazionale d’arte Moderna in Rome, the Galleria d’arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Ferrara, the Galleria d’arte Moderna di Palazzo Pitti, the Galleria degli Uffizi, the Meadows Museum in Dallas, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Museo del Prado.

Taking part in the exhibition’s unveiling were Nadia Arroyo Arce, director of Culture at Fundación MAPFRE, together with the exhibition’s curators Francesca Dini, art historian and expert on Boldini, and Leyre Bozal Chamorro, Fundación MAPFRE’s curator of collections.