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Matteo Massagrande’s desolate interiors are extraordinary feats of skill. At a time when many of the subtler
processes of painting are in the course of being lost, probably forever, they exhibit a dazzling refinement of
technique – something that clearly derives from an intensive study of the Old Masters, perhaps, most of all,
Vermeer, since technical skill is here combined with an ultra-refined feeling for effects of light.

Why then does he choose this particular range of subject matter, dilapidated interiors, but not the grandiose
spaces of some fabled palace, now fallen on hard times? These are, instead, the banal rooms and corridors of
out-dated apartments, which have, for some reason, been abruptly abandoned by their inhabitants. Evidence of
the haste with which this abandonment took place is evidenced by the scattered items of furniture they left behind
– here an upended divan bed, there a shabby kitchen-table. None of it is furniture of any quality. These are just
things that those who left didn’t have the energy or will to take with them. Or perhaps they are things left behind
when the householder died – items no friend or relative wanted or thought useful.

There is also evidence that these abandoned rooms have been in their present state for some time – dust and
small pieces of rubble on the tiled floors, flakes of plaster fallen from the walls. In other words, the paintings
represent a kind of limbo. They are an image, realized in every detail, of a state of not-being: painted paradoxes,
in other words.

It is perhaps carrying things too far to see these works as lamentations for things past – they are anti-romantic,
rather than romantic, and this is what marks them off from the paintings of ruins that have a long tradition in
European art. They are not even really ‘theatrical’, as that adjective is usually understood. They prompt, not an
empathetic gaze, but a neutral one. ‘This,’ they tell us, ‘is the way things sometimes are. Life ebbs away, there’s
nothing you can do about it.’

The literary and philosophical connections of works of this kind are fairly obvious. They belong to the story of
Existentialism – we are invited to read them as we read the texts of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. It is at this
point, however, that one must make a distinction. Paintings are not texts in themselves. They are metaphors for
the human condition, not direct interpretations. This means, in fact, that there is no definitive interpretation. Every
spectator brings something different to the work, and every spectator takes something different away from it.

It is here, I think, that the question of reality – or, rather, of the realization of reality – comes in. When we talk of ‘realist’
writing, for example, we are in fact talking about something very different from what we see in Massagrande’s
paintings. He gives us the detailed texture of things in a much more forceful way than any verbal artisan. In an
odd way, this means that he offers hope, where existentialist philosophers eschew it. The paintings show us
how intensely we can – or he can – experience quite ordinary visual events, the events of texture and colour that
surround us every day. And these events, in turn, suggest what is valuable to the human spirit, even in scenes of
Edward Lucie-Smith, Art Historian, Author and Critic
Courtyard mixed media on panel 59 x 58 cm (23 x 23 in)
1 Interior I mixed media on panel 24 x 18 cm (9 x 7 in)
2 Interior II mixed media on panel 24 x 18 cm (9 x 7 in)
3 Interior III mixed media on panel 18 x 24 cm (7 x 9 in)
4 Interior IV mixed media on panel 24 x 18 cm (9 x 7 in)
5 Interior V mixed media on panel 24 x 18 cm (9 x 7 in)
6 Interior VI mixed media on panel 24 x 18 cm (9 x 7 in)
7 Interior VII mixed media on panel 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in)
8 Interior VIII mixed media on panel 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in)
9 Interior IX mixed media on panel 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in)
10 Interior X mixed media on panel 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in)
11 Interior XI mixed media on panel 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in)
12 Interior XII mixed media on panel 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in)
13 Interior XIII mixed media on panel 40 x 50 cm (16 x 20 in)
14 Interior XIV mixed media on panel 50 x 40 cm (20 x 16 in)
15 Interior XV mixed media on canvas on panel 100 x 120 cm (39 x 47 in)
16 Interior XVI mixed media on panel 80 x 80 cm (31 x 31 in)
17 Interior XVII mixed media on panel 150 x 120 cm (59 x 47 in)
18 Interior XVIII mixed media on panel 150 x 120 cm (59 x 47 in)
19 Interior XIX mixed media on panel 200 x 150 cm (79 x 47 in)
20 Interior XX mixed media on panel 200 x 150 cm (79 x 47 in)
1959 Born Venice

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2009 Matteo Massagrande, Sala Pares, Barcelona

2007 Fényben, Galleria Stefano Forni, Bologna
2005 Massagrande, Galeria de Arte Gaudì, Madrid
2003 Massagrande, Galleria Il triangolo, Cremona
Opere recenti, Galleria Stefano Forni, Bologna
2002 Racconti di luce, Sergio e Thao Mandelli Arte Contemporanea, Milan
Dipinti, guaches, incisioni, Stamperia della Pergola, Pesaro
Paintings, J.J. Brookings Gallery, Palo Alto
2001 Paintings, J.J. Brookings Gallery, San Francisco

Selected Group Exhibitions

2011 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, Italian Pavilion on the occasion of the 150th
Anniversary of the Unification of Italy curated by Vittorio Sgarbi, Villa Contarini, Piazzale sul Brenta
2009 ArteFiera Bologna, Galleria Stefano Forni
2008 Colectiva, Sala Pares, Barcelona
2007 Salò de Maig, Anquin’s Galeria d’Art, Reus, Tarragona
2006 Italian Artists, Aida Cherfan Fine Art, Beirut
2002 Intervallo. Paesaggi Italiani, Galleria Stefano Forni, Bologna

Selected Public Exhibitions

2010 Festival dei Due Mondi, Palazzo Pianciani, Spoleto

Premio Arciere, Museo archeologico “Ferruccio Barreca”, Sant’Antioco (CA), curated by Vittorio Sgarbi
2009 Contemplazioni. Bellezza e tradizione del nuovo nella pittura italiana contemporanea, Castel
Sismondo e Palazzo del Podestà, Rimini, curated by Alberto Agazzani
Massagrande. Scene d’Ungheria, Villa Manin, Passariano di Codroipo (UD), Esedra di Levante,
curated by Marco Goldin
2008 Not So Private. Gallerie e storia dell’arte, Bologna, Galleria Stefano Forni, Villa delle Rose, Bologna,
in collaboration with Mambo
2007 Arte Italiana, 1968-2007. Pittura, Palazzo Reale, Milan, curated by Vittorio Sgarbi
Massagrande. Dalle voci di una conchiglia, Museo al Santo, Padua, curated by Sandro Parmeggiani e
Giorgio Segato
2005 A.A.A Ambiente, Arte, Architettura, Ex Chiesa di San Mattia, Bologna
Mito, Auto, Moto, Palazzo D’Accursio, Bologna
2002 Racconti di luce, Museo Civico, Chiusa, Bolzano
1999 Massagrande. La prima luna, Museo delle Mura, Borgotaro, Parma
1998 Incisioni 1974-1998 Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso, curated by Marco Goldin
1997 Opere su carta, Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso, curated by Marco Goldin
Civiche Gallerie di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Ferrara, curated by Francesco Lo Perfido
1996 Opere 1986-1996 Palazzo Sarcinelli, Conegliano, Treviso, curated by Marco Goldin
1995 Opere 1974-1994 Palazzo Crepadona, Belluno, curated by Paolo Rizzi
Incisioni 1974-1994 Museo Civico, Padua, curated by Giorgio Segato



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