Unique col­lec­tion of mas­ters

19th cen­tury Rus­sian busi­ness­men’s vi­sion shared, writes An­nelies Gart­ner

The West Australian - - WEEKEND ARTS -

The Mas­ters of Mod­ern Art from the Her­mitage ex­hi­bi­tion is drawn from the State Her­mitage Mu­seum in St Peters­burg. The re­mark­able Rus­sian mu­seum of art has its foun­da­tion in pri­vate col­lec­tions. In this ex­hi­bi­tion of 65 paint­ings, two-thirds of the works were ac­cu­mu­lated by Sergei Shchukin and his close friend Ivan Moro­zov.

“Two in­di­vid­u­als be­gan to col­lect un­known mas­ters for un­known rea­sons and spent a lot of time think­ing about the con­tem­po­rary art,” says Mikhail Dedinkin, the ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor and deputy head of the Her­mitage De­part­ment of West­ern Eu­ro­pean Fine Art at the State Her­mitage Mu­seum.

The vi­sion­ary, wealthy busi­ness­men be­gan buy­ing mod­ern art in the late 1800s — Shchukin was in­ter­ested in French art, Moro­zov’s tastes were more di­verse.

Dr Dedinkin says thou­sands of art­works went on dis­play in Paris ev­ery year from aca­demic mas­ters who were well-known in their time but Shchukin and Moro­zov im­por­tantly col­lected from “un­known, poor mas­ters who worked mostly for them­selves, who were in­de­pen­dent”.

“They bring the best ex­am­ples of con­tem­po­rary mas­ters so far to Moscow and the col­lec­tion grows very fast,” he says.

Shchukin be­came a pa­tron of Henri Matisse and col­lected 38 of his works. Eight of his paint­ings are on dis­play, among them Sun­flow­ers in a Vase 1898, Nymph and Satyr 1908/09 and A Game of Bowls 1908.

“He was the first per­son not only to start to col­lect the works by Matisse it was also a friend­ship and co-op­er­a­tion be­tween them,” he says.

“They dis­cussed the main paint­ings by Matisse of this very im­por­tant time . . . the colours, the size, their feel­ings that they wanted ex­plained in his fu­ture work and when it was dis­cussed with the col­lec­tor he re­alised th­ese were out­stand­ing mas­ter­pieces.”

By 1914, Shchukin had ac­quired 40 works by Pablo Pi­casso and had a room in his palace ded­i­cated to his art. So it is not sur­pris­ing that this ex­hi­bi­tion also fea­tures eight no­table works by Pi­casso all formerly from the col­lec­tion of Shchukin in­clud­ing Woman’s Head (Por­trait of Genevieve) 1902/03, Woman with a Fan 1908, Small House in a Gar­den 1908, and Ta­ble in a Cafe (Bot­tle of Pernod) 1912.

Three works by Paul Cezanne (The Banks of the River Marne 1888, Fruit 1879/80 and Large Pine Near Aix-en-Provence 1895/97) and two by Claude Monet (Poppy Field 1890/91 and Water­loo Bridge, ef­fect of fog 1903) are also ex­hi­bi­tion high­lights. The many other works from mod­ern greats adorn­ing the gallery walls in­clude mas­ter­pieces by Paul Gau­guin, Camille Pis­sarro, Henri Rousseau, Wass­ily Kandin­sky and Kaz­imir Male­vich.

Also show­ing is Matisse, la

Danse et la Musique, a video in­stal­la­tion by Dutch mul­ti­me­dia artist and di­rec­tor Saskia Bod­deke and British film­maker Peter Green­away. The film ex­plores the cre­ation of two of Matisse’s mas­ter­pieces and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween him and Shchukin.

An­nelies Gart­ner trav­elled to Syd­ney as a guest of Des­ti­na­tion NSW

The Mas­ters of Mod­ern Art from the Her­mitage is at the Art Gallery of NSW un­til March 3.

Pic­tures: The State Her­mitage Mu­seum, St Peters­burg

Claude Monet, Poppy Field, 1890/91.

Pablo Pi­casso, Woman’s head (Por­trait of Genevieve), 1902/03

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