|Ivan Shishkin: Корабельная роща / Mast-Tree Grove. 1898. 165 x 252. Oil on canvas. © Russian Museum. Please click to enlarge the images!|
Russian Museum from the Icon to Modernism. Director of the Russian Museum: Vladimir Gusev. Editor-in-chief: Evgenia Petrova. Artistic design: Joseph Kiblitzky. Articles: Vladimir Gusev and Evgenia Petrova. Texts and biographies: 34 experts. Translated by Kenneth MacInnes. Large format, hard cover, richly illustrated. Printed in Italy by GRAFICART snc, Formia (LT). 392 p. 3rd revised edition. St. Petersburg: Palace Editions, 2013.
Available in Russian and English.
The official website: "The Russian Museum today is a unique depository of artistic treasures, a leading restoration center, an authoritative institute of academic research, a major educational center and the nucleus of a network of national museums of art. The Russian Museum collection contains more than 400.000 exhibits. The main complex of museum buildings - the Mikhailovsky Palace and Benois Wing - houses the permanent exhibition of the Russian Museum, tracing the entire history of Russian art from the tenth to the twentieth centuries. The museum collection embraces all forms, genres, schools and movements of art. Over the past twenty years, the museum complex has grown to include the Stroganov Palace, St Michael's (Engineers) Castle and the Marble Palace. The complex also includes the Mikhailovsky Gardens, Engineering Gardens, Summer Garden (including the Summer Palace) and the House of Peter the Great."
Wikipedia: "The State Russian Museum (formerly the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III) is the largest depository of Russian fine art in Saint Petersburg. The museum was established on April 13, 1895, upon enthronement of Nicholas II to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, many private collections were nationalized and relocated to the Russian Museum. These included Kazimir Malevich's Black Square. The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace, a splendid Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, erected in 1819-25 to a design by Carlo Rossi on Square of Arts in St Petersburg. Upon the death of the Grand Duke the residence was named after his wife as the Palace of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, and became famous for its many theatrical presentations and balls."
AA: I visited for the first time the Russian Museum which some of my friends even prefer to the Hermitage. In one day you can get a magnificent overview of Russian art, history and culture.
It is Christmas Eve, but Russians celebrate Christmas two weeks later because of the Julian tradition. Thus, here everything is open, and life seems normal. There is, however, already a Christmas atmosphere on the Nevsky Prospect, a couple of blocks from here. You can easily find restaurants and cafés in the neighbourhood, and the museum café itself is good, too.
We came in the morning on the Allegro bullet train. It takes only 3½ hours from the center of Helsinki to the center of St. Petersburg. The border control, customs, and currency exchange procedures are taken care of during the train ride. The currency rate is especially favourable for a foreign tourist.
I said life seems normal, but the Ukraine crisis affects us all. I condemn Putin's actions in Ukraine and support the sanctions but that is no reason to boycott Russian culture. I believe like Tolstoy that true art is inherently against bigotry and nationalism. True patriotism is not nationalism. There is dignity in acknowledging one's roots while respecting those of others. The greatest values are universal, common to all.
To see the entire permanent collection of the Russian Museum is a walk of many kilometers. Wear light clothes and change into moccasins or other good indoors walking shoes. Don't carry anything. You need to take breaks, and that means you get to walk the distance back and forth many times. There is only one café and wc conveniently accessible.
Beyond the jump break is my annotated room visit plan. We did not see the rooms in that order, however. We started at Krebsgang (backwards) at the Benois Wing (the 20th century), continued at the ground floor of the main Mikhailovsky Palace (late 19th century) and finished at its first floor (Old Russian Art, 18th century, early 19th century).
Watching the beloved masters Shishkin, Levitan, and Repin I am reminded of the deep affinity in the Finnish and Russian art of seeing the landscape. Finnish masters of the Golden Age such as Halonen, Järnefelt, and Edelfelt have a lot in common with them, although Finnish artists usually received their influences in Paris.
Today, one of the most deeply impressive artworks was Ivan Shishkin's Mast-Tree Grove. In Finland and Russia a forest like that has a profound atavistic impact for the visitor. It is a space of pantheistic meditation. There is a sense of the sacred in a visit to such a forest and such a landscape. Even half an hour in such a space can make the difference. Shishkin's painting conveys that sense of a soulscape.
Today I was reflecting a lot on the undiminished impact of figurative art. In the 19th century photography put a lot of artists out of business. New trends of great art since the 19th century have been as a rule non-figurative or at least not aiming at faithful representation. Photography has taken care of that.
Today I was thinking that this need not be. No photograph can surpass a good realistic portrait painting. No photograph can convey the spiritual sense of a landscape like in Mast-Tree Grove. NB: a photograph of the painting Mast-Tree Grove can be mistaken for an actual photograph of a landscape. But seeing the painting itself you at first sight may find it startlingly photorealistic while it actually is not. It is an adventure in light and nature impressions conveyed with paint. There are secrets and mysteries in the landscape. The invisible conveyed via the visible.
|Nikolai Ge: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy, 1884. Oil on canvas, 96 x 71. © Russian Museum.|
|Vasily Vereshchagin: At the Door of a Mosque, 1873. Oil on canvas. © Russian Museum.|
|Andrei Rublyov: St. Paul. From Deisus Tier. Moscow. Ca 1408. Tempera on wood. 311 x 104 x 4. © Russian Museum. Google Art Project.|
|Miracle of St. George and the Dragon, with Scenes from His Life. Novgorod. First half of the 14th century. © Russian Museum. Google Art Project.|
|Nikofor Krylov: Winter Landscape (Russian Winter), 1827. Oil on canvas. 54 x 63,5. © Russian Museum.|
|Ivan Aivazovsky: The Wave, 1889. © Russian Museum|
|Ilya Repin: Ceremonial Sitting of the State Council on 7 May 1901 Marking the Centenary of its Foundation. 1903. Oil on canvas. 400 x 877. © Russian Museum. Google Art Project.|
|Boris Grigoriev: Portrait of Vsevolod Meyerhold, 1916. Oil on canvas. 247 x 168. © Russian Museum.|
|Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin: Portrait of Anna Akhmatova, 1922. © Russian Museum.|
|Lyubov Popova: Man + Air + Space, 1913. Oil on canvas. 125 x 107. © Russian Museum.|
|Alexander Deineka: Collective Farm Girl on a Bicycle, 1935. Oil on canvas, 120 x 220 cm. © Russian Museum.|
|Mark Antokolsky: Nestor the Chronicler, 1890. © Russian Museum.|
|Zinaida Serebryakova: Banya / Sauna, 1913. Oil on canvas. 135 x 174. © Russian Museum.|
The hanging and the selection are excellent. The rooms are huge, and there is plenty of space also for giant panoramas. Almost all art is on display without a glass shield, but many of the early icons are in glass cages. The lighting is pleasant to the eye. Some works are shadowed without spotlights, probably for protection.
The weighty official museum catalogue is highly readable offering intelligent and relevant commentary, context, and background. It cannot help being highly selective, but the selections are excellent. Study the catalogue under a good light to appreciate the full impact of the beautiful illustrations.
MY ANNOTATED ROOM PLAN:
MY ANNOTATED ROOM PLAN:
MIKHAILOVSKY PALACE, FIRST FLOOR
OLD RUSSIAN ART
1 Icons, religious art [often in glass cages in rooms 1-3]
2 Icons, religious art
3 Andrei Rublyov and religious art
4 Religious art, serial images
5 Nikitin, Argunov
8 court art, Shchedrin
11 the White Room
12 Borovikovoy, Martov, Matveyev
EARLY 19TH CENTURY
13 Venetsianov, Soroka
14 Aivazovsky, Bryullov
15 Ivanov, Bruni
MIKHAILOVSKY PALACE, GROUND FLOOR: LATE 19TH CENTURY
27 Shishkin *
32 Polenin, Antokolsky
33 Repin: The Barge Haulers at the Volga
39 Kustodiev, Malyavin
40 Levitan *
42 Isaac Brodsky
43 Benois, Bakst
45 Somov, Bakst, Golubkina
46 Ryabushkin, Borisov-Musatov
[49-53 not in the exhibition]
54 official court paintings, Repin, the Ceremonial Sitting panorama 1901
[55-65 not in the exhibition]
MIKHAILOVSKY PALACE, BENOIS WING, FIRST FLOOR: 20TH CENTURY
67 Blue Rose, Golubkina
68 Nesterov, landscapes, Konenkov
69 Arkhipov, Malyavin, Trubetsky
71 Kustodiev, the Shalyapin portrait *
72 Grigoryev, Altman *
73 The Knave of Diamonds [ruutujätkä]
74 Larionov, Goncharov
79 Petrov-Vodkin *
80 1920s and 1930s
81 1930s, Deineka *
83 thaw, Moiseyenko
84 late 1960s-1970s
85 late and post-USSR
[87-94 decorative and applied art, 101-109 temporary exhibitions]
89-90 stairway: Roerich