Excellent exhibition in Rome! – 7 July – 16 September 2007

Il Simbolismo da Moreau a Gauguin a Klimt -Roma Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna

Now the Munch exhibition in Basle in finished, do not despair. This is an excellent and comprehensive exhibition in Rome that is well worth a special visit. There are about a hundred works in all. My only quarrel with the show is that among the many brilliant Böcklins that open the show, they have not managed to borrow the most influential of all: The Island of the Dead, the painting so important to Munch and  Strindberg among others.  The show explores the roots of Symbolism Europe-wide and so it includes the pre-Raphaelites: Rossetti and Burne-Jones’ femmes fatales give way to Moreau’s. His Salomé theme is explored  in  some depth: studies and drawings culminate in the important oil of 1876 loaned by the Armand Hammer Foundation, Los Angeles. Pale figures by Puvis de Chavannes do their usual thing in twilight on the seashore. Max Klinger is represented by  numerous graphics and sculpture. Fantin-Latour proves how uncomfortable he was as a Symbolist and what a good decision  it was to move on to flower painting. An interesting section is devoted to Joséphin Péladan’s Rosicrucian Salons of the 1890s. Numerous lesser-known Italian and north Europeans demonstrate the wide influence of the movement. The many works by Odilon Redon, both oils and graphics, include the strangely-smiling Spider of 1888. Gauguin is represented by wood carvings and his paintings include the important Parau na te Varua ino (1892) from Washington, a painting in which the witch’s face is underlit in exactly the same way as Munch’s Self-portrait with Cigarette (1895) – but I don’t think he could have seen it.  Mondrian’s Passion Flower (1901) demonstrates how widely the curators have cast their net along side the obvious choices. Rodin’s Succubus (1889) Prové’s Night (1894) and Minne’s Prodigal Son (1896) are highlights among the sculpture. Félician Rops La morte al ballo (1865-75) on loan from Hungary compares interestingly to Munch’s treatment of the same theme; Volpede’s Il sole (1904) compares with Munch’s Sun. There are several Klimts in the show, themost important of which is  Three Stages of Woman (1905). This again is interesting to compare with Munch’s, and it would have been good  to have one Munch’s big paintings to compare it with  but they only have a small drypoint  Woman in Three Stages (1895). Other Munchs are three oil paintings: Melancholy, Yellow Boat (1892) Vision (1892) Jealousy II (1907) and another graphic, Harpy (1894). There is also a fascinating portrait by Emile Fabry Man Contemplating his Destiny (1897) that takes its composition directly from The Scream. Altogether a large and extremely interesting  exhibition. The catalogue is good but be warned, the text is only in Italian.

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