From 13 May to 10 September 2017
Venice, Museo Correr
Extended until October 1st 2017
Scientific direction Gabriella Belli
Curated by Jean Clair
From 1992, Roger de Montebello has chosen Venice as the location inspiring his works, and as the ideal location for his studio. The exhibition, part of Museo Correr’s exhibition programme, comprises 389 works, in three major groups of works from the artist’s oeuvre: a selection of spontaneous portraits, a series of views of Venice, and a cycle of works dedicated to the Spanish bullfight.
The theme shared by all of Roger de Montebello’s works is the constant translation of reality, captured from the real world, into a metaphysical dimension in which the artist’s language is placed between dreamlike abstraction and faithful depiction. In his works, painting takes pride of place, developing an existential exploration that adopts the form of seriality.
The exhibition illustrates the work performed by the artist on three major themes, within which he has developed some unusual motifs.
In the artist’s work, the exhibition’s curator Jean Clair has identified an approach based on the repeated study of evanescent elements, the fundamental feature of his pictorial methodology. In this way he creates a connection between the three thematic areas present in the show, such as the expression of a face, the fleeting glints of light reflected onto buildings in Venice, and the dynamic energy of the Spanish bullfight.
Roger de Montebello as a personality resembles that of a romantic painter who explores the world using painting en plein air, assisted by a “mobile studio” prototype structure reduced to the dimensions of a wooden box.
This tool becomes fundamental for the depiction of the traditional Spanish bullfight, fixing the action and the bright colours into small-format paintings.
Jean Clair proposes a Venetian interpretation of combat in the bullring, with reference to the “bull-hunting” ritual, an important part of the Venice carnival until about 1800.
The same technique of pictorial spontaneity can be found in the series dedicated to portraits of friends and acquaintances, which reveal the artist’s versatility in mastering the depiction of personality, with the sitters’ soul emerging from their facial expressions.
The canvases dedicated to views of Venice are in large format, and depict distinctive locations in the city’s physiognomy, with a slow, profound language, hallmarked by repetition, with a meditative, oneiric language suspended within bright, light-filled atmospheres.
Jean Clair, the exhibition’s curator, says, “The dream in stone evoked by Baudelaire to express beauty is expressed and revealed in these paintings, in its elemental dimension: a marble surface, calcite, a crystalline mineral which, through some hidden property, grows like a crystal, with edges, faces and reflections.” He thus invites observers to lose their sense of direction within the labyrinth of the artist’s imagination.
The exhibition is accompanied by a special publication, taking the form of an artist’s portfolio, with colour plates, and texts by Gabriella Belli and Jean Clair. It helps to understand Roger de Montebello’s artistic approach.
The French-American painter Roger de Montebello was born in Paris in 1964, in a family with notable artistic affinities. After having learnt the foundations of drawing and painting at the Facultad de Bellas Artes, Seville (1984-1985), he continued his artistic education (painting, the history and philosophy of art) at the University of Harvard, where he obtained a degree (Bachelor of Arts) in 1988.
He had his first exhibition of paintings in 1992, in Paris. In the same year he opened his first studio in Venice, the city where he lives and works still today. In 2011 he took part in the Venice Biennale d’Arte, with an exhibition titled Montebello-Megachromia. After many solo shows, mostly in Paris and London, this exhibition at Museo Correr is his first solo show in an Italian museum institution.