The Hermitage
must-see list
(part  2)

The Impressionists collection

The works of the Impressionists (Monet, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Pissarro) are widely presented in the Hermitage (General Staff building) with Claude Monet’s “Woman in the Sainte-Adresse garden” (Claude Monet, Femme au jardin, 1867) being one of the true gems of the collection. One can probably identify the year of painting’s creation by the woman’s dress, because such dresses came into fashion in 1860-s. And it was this work that became the cover of the catalogue of the exhibition of Monet’s works from around the world, which took place a few years ago in Paris at the Grand Palais. The collection also abounds with works of post-Impressionists Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh and other French artists of the early XX century: Matisse, Derain, Picasso, Marquet, Valloton. But how was such a rich collection created in the Hermitage museum? 

The Hermitage

Woman in the Sainte-Adresse garden

All the paintings were formerly stored in the collections of Russian merchants Morozov and Shchukin, who bought them in Paris from French painters, thus saving latter from starvation. After the revolution, paintings were nationalized by the Soviet state and afterwards placed at the Moscow Museum of new Western art. In those years the Museum was visited by Alfred Barr, the founder of the New York Museum of modern art, for whom the Shchukin’s and Morozov’s collections served as the prototype for his future offspring. After the war the Museum disbanded because of its anti-popular and formalistic content, and the collection was shared between the two largest museums of Russia Pushkin Museum in Moscow and Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The former director of the Hermitage, Iosif Orbeli, is also worth mentioning, because he was not afraid to take responsibility and to pick the most radical works by Kandinsky, Matisse and Picasso. The second part of the collection of Morozov-Shchukin today can be admired at the Gallery of arts of Europe and America of XIX-XX centuries in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

The Hermitage
The Hermitage

Frescoes from the Buddhist temples

Hardly anyone gets to the Department of the East, situated on the third floor of the Hermitage, but it is definitely worth visiting. If you walk a little further from the world of Matisse, Picasso, Derain and overcome the temptation to go down the wooden stairs, you will reach the Department of the East. In several halls of the “far East and Central Asia” exhibition you will discover hundreds years old wall murals that were partially lost and then restored with the help of computer technologies. They represent an incredibly refined art of painting from both cave and land Buddhist temples from Karacharsky, Sucharsky and Turfan oases located along the route of the Great silk road. Murals provide a unique testimony to the unity of the Buddhist world in India, Central Asia and China of pre-Mongol period. A few years ago, part of the frescoes from the collection was moved to the restoration and storage centre “Old village” (which is a part of the Hermitage museum), where they are now exhibited.

To be continued…

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