A Nod to Matisse

By Domingo Zapata

Presently, I have a solo exhibition showing at Lab Art Gallery in Los Angeles, “A Nod to Matisse”.

My intention was to pay a great homage to the Maestro. A native Spaniard myself, I was raised in Mallorca where there exists a shimmering Mediterranean glow which has inspired artists for centuries. My passion for color, light, food, wine, music, and dance come from my heritage and can be seen, celebrated, in these canvases. I visited the Alhambra on numerous occasions and have seen Matisse’s signature in its guest book. I have been touched by the overwhelming beauty of that palace and it carries its history in my Spanish blood. It is no wonder I feel a great closeness to the work of Matisse and his Spanish experiences!

Matisse visited Spain in the winter of 1910, suffering from depression and was so taken by the Moorish influences that they gave him inspiration to paint in Morocco. At the time of his journey he was so morbidly depressed that he hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in a year. The work he had created in 1908-9 had been widely rejected and the death of his father shortly after sent the artist to an even darker place. Before arriving in Granada, he first stayed in Seville with friends. He spent his days in the flamenco schools and his evenings in drawing classes, confessing Seville inspired him to work. With his spirits somewhat lifted, Matisse ventured to Granada to see the Alhambra Palace on December 9, 1910.

The Alhambra is a wonder and it was originally constructed as a fortress in 889 AD and converted in the 12th century into a royal palace that housed the last Muslim emirs in Spain. While the palace serves as a testimony to the aesthetic and intellectual wealth of Islamic art and architecture, its Spanish setting serves an important role in terms of aesthetic and cultural importance. With light in Southern Spain positively radiant, it fills the chambers and courtyards of the palace. The Moorish poets called the Alhambra “a pearl among emeralds,” referring to the color of the building set against the surrounding forest of Andalusia. When converting the fortress into a palace, the architects and artisans of the Nasrid dynasty moved away from the Byzantine influences associated with their crafts and tended to incorporate instead, motifs and styles that had developed over the last 8 centuries of Muslim rule in Spain, where Christian, Jewish, and Muslim artistic practices had influenced each other. The Alhambra represents and exudes the richness of Spain’s historically diverse population as well as the unique qualities of its most treasured cultural traditions. As Washington Irving poetically described,

Of course, the palace, unlike any example of Islamic art Matisse had seen, is a massive three-dimensional structure. It is extremely ornate, adorned entirely with Arabic inscriptions manipulated into sacred geometrical patterns and set into arabesques (those beautiful linear patterns of interlacing foliage). Painted tiles cover the walls star shaped windows diffuse that beautiful Mediterranean light into …read more

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