The Sistine Madonna in Dresden and Moscow
#1 2020 (66)
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), that genius of the Renaissance whom the world knows as Raphael, with exhibitions planned around the world, from the artist’s birthplace Urbino to Rome, where he died aged only 37 on April 6 1520. Known in his lifetime as the “master of the Madonnas”, his masterpiece the Sistine Madonna found its way in the 18th century to Dresden, where its “second life” began. Badly damaged during World War II, it was restored in Moscow in 1945-1955, “reborn” yet again, before its return to its German home following a landmark exhibition at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in 1955. In such a way, the picture has been linked historically to both Germany and Russia, and the emotional impact of Raphael’s work has brought together artists and writers from both nations.
Fyodor Bruni. THE FOUNDER OF THE DYNASTY
#1 2018 (58)
The Tretyakov Gallery's permanent exhibition features, alongside the works of Karl Bryullov, a gripping male portrait. It was painted by an apprentice of ugrcat Karl”, Fyodor Moller (Theodor von Moller), and features a hazel-eyed, brownhaired man with bushy hair and fluffy whiskers. The pale face is set off by a white starched dress shirt, while the black silk necktie highlights the model's elegance. A gold chain and the insignia of the Order of St. Stanislaus indicate the holder’s wealth and position in society, while an overcoat flung over the shoulders lends a certain romantic casual look to the model. Who is the subject?
INVESTIGATIONS AND DISCOVERIES
THE MANY FACES OF IVAN AIVAZOVSKY
#1 2017 (54)
A great marine painter who left a vast artistic legacy behind him, Ivan Aivazovsky was himself often portrayed by his contemporaries, while as a talented portraitist himself, the artist also created around 10 self-portraits over the course of his long artistic career. He was painted by a whole host of his fellow artists including friends from the Academy of Arts such as Vasily Sternberg and Mikhail Scotti; older contemporaries such as Academician Alexei Tyranov and the “patriarch” of the Moscow School of Painting, Vasily Tropinin; the chief ideologue of the “Peredvizhnik” (Wanderers) movement, Ivan Kramskoi; and the “apologist” for salon painting, Konstantin Makovsky. Two marble busts of Aivazovsky survive, one by Alexander Belyaev, depicting the artist as a young man, the other by Leopold Bernhard Bernstamm, created in the painter’s old age. After Aivazovsky’s death, a bronze statue was erected in Feodosia, designed by the sculptor Ilya Ginzburg. Despite all this, Aivazovsky’s depiction in art has never been the subject of significant study. How did the great artist perceive himself, and how did he wish to be seen by future generations? How, indeed, was he viewed by his contemporaries?
“POETS OF THE HUMAN VISAGE”: FYODOR ROKOTOV AND THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH
#2 2016 (51)
We owe this characterization, “Poets of the Human Visage”, of these two portrait-painters to the art historian Alexei Lebedev: it dates from 1945, when the Soviet researcher’s enthusiasm was encouraged by the rapid progress in building ties with the UK. His comparison of the Russian and English painters caught on, although Rokotov was never called “the Russian Gainsborough” in his lifetime. Nor had the fame that each artist enjoyed in his own land spread to the other country. At the 1862 International Exhibition in London Russian portraiture was represented by Levitsky and Borovikovsky: Rokotov was then simply forgotten in his homeland. Nor did Russians have any knowledge of the British artist: the remarkable “Portrait of a Lady in Blue” now at the Hermitage - Gainsborough’s only masterpiece in a Russian collection - was acquired as late as 1912. So what do the great Russian and British artists, so apparently different from one another, have in common?
#4 2014 (45)
OCTOBER 2014 WILL SEE CELEBRATIONS MARKING THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF MIKHAIL SCOTTI'S BIRTH. TODAY, THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS HARDLY AWARE OF THE ARTIST'S NAME; IN HIS LIFETIME, HOWEVER, AS A MEMBER OF THE ACADEMY OF ARTS AND PROFESSOR, SCOTTI WAS WIDELY KNOWN AND HIS WORK WAS MUCH SOUGHT AFTER. SCOTTI'S CONTEMPORARIES, INCLUDING MEMBERS OF THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL FAMILY, ADMIRED HIS MASTERFUL WATERCOLOURS, HIS "ITALIAN-STYLE" PAINTINGS, AND HIS PORTRAITS. SCOTTI RECEIVED WELL-DESERVED RECOGNITION FOR HIS HISTORICAL PAINTINGS, TOO: RECENTLY HIS PAINTING "MININ AND POZHARSKY" (NIZHNY NOVGOROD ART MUSEUM) HAS BECOME PARTICULARLY FAMOUS.
More Than Romanticism
#1 2014 (42)
THE EXHIBITION "MORE THAN ROMANTICISM" WAS HELD FROM NOVEMBER 2013 TO JANUARY 2014 IN THE ENGINEERING WING OF THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY AS PART OF THE "EXCHANGE" YEAR OF CULTURAL COOPERATION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND HOLLAND. FOR THE FIRST TIME THE MOSCOW PUBLIC COULD SEE WORKS FROM THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY ALONGSIDE PAINTINGS FROM THE TEYLERS MUSEUM IN HAARLEM AND THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF JEF RADEMAKERS FROM BRASSCHAAT, A PROVINCE OF ANTWERP. BEARING IN MIND THE UNIQUE FEATURES OF THE TWO COLLECTIONS, THE CURATORS TRIED TO HIGHLIGHT BOTH THEIR SHARED FEATURES AND THEIR DIFFERENCES, AS WELL AS THE EUROPEAN AND THE NATIONAL ELEMENTS OF RUSSIAN AND DUTCH FINE ART. THE NAMES OF GREAT PAINTERS SUCH AS REMBRANDT VAN RIJN AND FRANS HALS, WHOSE MASTERPIECES ARE IN THE HERMITAGE'S COLLECTION OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF DUTCH ART, ARE WELL KNOWN TO THE RUSSIAN PUBLIC. THANKS TO THE FAMOUS FILM, THE YOUNGER GENERATION IS FAMILIAR WITH JOHANNES VERMEER'S PAINTING "GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING" (1665). THE ART OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS OF THE 1800-1850S, HOWEVER, IS ONLY KNOWN TO A SMALL CIRCLE OF ART EXPERTS. MEANWHILE, THE PAINTING TRADITIONS OF THE GREAT AND "LESSER" DUTCH MASTERS WERE CARRIED ON INTO A NEW HISTORICAL ERA, THAT OF ROMANTICISM.
"The Spark of Peter the Great"
#3 2013 (40)
The exhibition "Tsarina Elizabeth and Moscow", running at the Tretyakov Gallery from December 9 2010 to March 27 2011, commemorates the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Russian empress. Staged in the Engineering Building on Lavrushinsky lane, it concludes a trio of shows that have run there over many years: the first project, "Catherine the Great and Moscow" (at the Krymsky Val building), took place in 1998. That was a pioneering effort to introduce to the public the artefacts of "imperial" history and culture, which were kept away from the public eye under Soviet rule. The ties between the great female ruler of Russia and Moscow had never before been the subject of careful study. A year later the exhibition "Peter the Great and Moscow" opened in the Engineering Building, marking the 300th anniversary of the Grand Embassy of Peter I.
“An artist with wonderful talent and comfortable means…”
#4 2012 (37)
Thus the engraver Fyodor Iordan described his friend Fyodor Moller (born Otto Friedrich Theodor von Möller, 1812-1874). Born into a family of Baltic German nobility and later in life a professor of St. Petersburg’s Academy of Arts, Moller lived a happy family and artistic life, gaining recognition in his lifetime, most notably for his portraits of Nikolai Gogol. Moller’s name, however, was soon almost forgotten, and today he remains little more than a link between Russian and Estonian culture. A conference devoted to the bicentenary of the artist’s birth took place in Kuressaare castle on the Estonian Island of Saaremaa in September 2012: it was there, in this small resort town, that Moller spent his summers from 1856 onwards.
Moller lived a happy life with his young wife and children on his estate, by a lake not far from the unique Kaali field of meteorite craters, creating a number of well-known paintings and giving art lessons to enthusiasts. He is buried in the Lutheran cemetery nearby.