The Centre Pompidou in Malaga port this week welcomes its biggest and most important exhibition yet. 'Henri Matisse. Un país nuevo' (Henri Matisse. A new country) brings together some fifty works by the master of modern art, on loan from the gallery's main base in Paris.
Until 9 June, visitors to the Pompidou can take in the artist's incessant exploration of primitivism and impressionism at the turn of the 20th century, the explosion of 'fauvistic' colour, the flirtations with the simplification of forms, the subsequent return to a certain classicism in the happiness of the French coast, the experiments with trimmed papers and the final feature for which he is best known to the public: his imposing use of colour.
"He is a painter of colour, but this exhibition has contemporary relevance, because Matisse's painting appeals to the senses, but gives space to the spirit," says Aurélie Verbier, curator of the exhibition.
Before this break into the public consciousness, Matisse, as he was about to turn 30, put himself into debt to purchase himself a drawing by Vincent van Gogh, a plaster bust by Auguste Rodin, a painting by Paul Gauguin and a small canvas by Paul Cézanne - all as charms that would help him find his way as an artist.
Just months after his Cézanne purchase came Self Portrait (1900) that welcomes visitors to the exhibition.
Relationship with Picasso
The success of Matisse was limited until 1905 when his portrait of his wife Amélie, Woman with a Hat sparked a scandal that Matisse and his followers (Manguin, Marquet and Camoin, among them) provoked in the Paris Autumn Salon where they presented their works.
Matisse was singled out as the leader of this group and from that moment on, every exhibition became an intimate and social battle.
This did nothing to dampen his radicalism, though, up to the point that he and Pablo Picasso started to cross swords and developed a rivalry which would last until their deaths.
This respectful rivalry is evident in the exhibition, above all, in a series of sketches with clear parallels to 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon'.
"Between Picasso and Matisse we can see the whole development of modern art," says Serge Lasvignes, president of the Centre Pompidou Paris. "We already know that there was fiery history between them but they also had a lot in common."
"I'd really like it if people come to see Matisse here then go to the Museo Picasso and establish a dialogue between the works."