On a recent trip to Spain, I spent a few days exploring the beautiful city of Málaga. From the new Pompidou Centre to the incredible Picasso Museum, you can spend days wandering the ancient streets and taking in all the fabulous art.
Today I’m going to talk about my favourite Malagueño museum, the Museo Carmen Thyssen. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to look around the permanent collection, but the exhibition ‘Mediterranean: An Arcadia Reinvented, From Signac to Picasso’ was amazing. I loved everything about it, and highly recommend a visit before it ends on 9th September 2018. If you won’t be passing through Málaga, don’t worry! The website has a great virtual tour which you can find here. The exhibition celebrates the light, colours, shapes, and interpretations of the Mediterranean. The paintings are French and Spanish, from the 19th to 20th centuries. There is a wide range of styles and ideas, and it is refreshing to understand how individual artists translated their surroundings onto canvas.
The exhibition wall panels talk about the influence of Locus Amonius; this is the influence of classical Latin poetry in landscapes, which explains the idealistic and bucolic atmosphere, full of hedonic light and colour. The paintings are in a variety of mediums ranging from sketches and ceramics, to paintings and sculpture. They echo the skies, foliage, and people of the Mediterranean, and this is exemplified by Joaquim Sunyer’s ‘Mediterráneo’, c. 1910-1911.
“The collection has a wide range of styles and interpretations, and it is refreshing to understand how individual artists translated their surroundings onto canvas”
The next room sees the pictures hung on a neutral, sage grey wall which complements the strong sea blues, terracotta oranges and lush greens; they are the epitome of 19th century Mediterranean modernism. Signac’s ‘St Tropez, The Quay’, 1899 is a pointillist boating scene which creates dappled light that reflects the water. This is one of the more famous works from the exhibition which they have used as one of the main draws. However I think that the exhibition features a range of more intriguing and lesser known works than Signac. One of my favourite works from this room is Nicolau Raurich’s, ‘Barcelona’, 1909, which experiments with texture to reflect the warmth and depth of the view through and orange tree and over the city. Another of my favourites is Charles Camoin’s ‘Harbour of Cassis with Two Tartanes’, c.1905.
“Picasso gives a true insight into the colours, light, shapes, and textures of the Mediterranean and make an invaluable contribution to the display”
Málaga is famous for being the birthplace of Picasso, and most of the galleries, shops and museums in the city capitalise on this draw. The title of the exhibition is no different, which includes Picasso’s name. I think this has worked in their favour, and despite the exhibition displaying a range of famous artworks which could have contributed to the title, such as Matisse, Picasso’s work has a certain je ne sais quoi when it come to depicting the Mediterranean. His painting ‘Two Pigeons’, 1957 epitomises this theme. His paintings give a true insight into the colours, light, shapes, and textures of the Mediterranean and are an invaluable contribution to the display.
The whole exhibition is a visual feast. The Matisse painting ‘Open Window, Nice’, 1905, is very neutral and soft. It has a subtle beauty but the placement of this work next to the strong colours of Dufy’s ‘The Studio by the Sea’, 1945 makes it almost missable.
Joaquim Sumter is an artist that I had never heard of before the exhibition and his painting ‘Mediterráneo’, c.1910-11, makes the European countryside look like the exotic lands of Gauguin’s Tahiti (see the first image). His work is spiritual and calm, yet packs a punch with intensity of colour and bold, unapologetic application of paint. This unmistakably Mediterranean style is probably why the gallery chose this work for all the exhibition’s advertsing. Finally, Josep de Togores’ landscape ‘Paisatge de Bandol’, 1916, has a style which echoes a mixture of Braque or early Picasso, and Cezanne’s paintings of Mont Sainte Victoire, with earthy colours and flowing yet abstract shapes.
“It’s spiritual and calm, yet packs a punch with intensity of colour and bold, unapologetic application of paint”
It is culturally complementing to the city and its history, and the selection of works on display are second to none. Well done to the Museo Carmen Thyssen, I will be back!