By Wendy Williams
SEVERAL years ago the art historian Maria del Mar Villafranca discovered in the buried pages of the Alhambra visitor book the signature of Henri Matisse.
It emerged the French artist had visited the iconic Moorish palace in December 1910.
And in a letter to his wife he wrote: “The Alhambra is a marvel. I feel there an intense emotion.”
Now exactly 100 years after his trip, that startling discovery has sparked a fascinating new exhibition entitled ‘Matisse and the Alhambra (1910-2010)’.
With over 100 pieces, including the only three he ever painted in Spain appearing together for the very first time, the collection revives the pivotal Spanish trip taken by the French artist, which is now believed to have had a lasting influence on his work.
On his excursion the lifelong friend of Picasso took in Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Toledo and Barcelona.
And according to Villafranca although his journey to the Alhambra only lasted three days it had a great impact on “one of the founding fathers of contemporary art.”
She said: “He is one of the most sought-after and most collected painters…the ultimate romantic and the first modernist.”
The varied collection, which explores Matisse’s fascination with the Islamic world, includes thirty paintings, drawings, lithographs, ceramics and sculptures, as well as 60 pieces of Islamic art, ceramics, glass, bronze and tapestries.
And forty prestigious international museums, including the Louvre and the MoMA in New York, have contributed pieces to complete this fascinating exhibition.
The exhibition, held at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Granada, will run until February 28, 2011.