French and Russian Art on the Scale of ‘War and Peace’


Paris – Sometimes you crave the beauty of the little things: haiku, string quartet, miniature engraving. and then for the second time, tovarishchoYou want your beauty as big as the motherland.

Morozov Collection: Symbols of Modern Art, which opened at the Louis Vuitton Foundation here last week, brings to Paris a “war and peace” – scale explosion of French and Russian painting – and for the first time since 1918, is one of the two most important art collections . Pre-revolutionary Russia.

When the French bourgeoisie still despised the Paris avant-garde, young Russian textile giants Ivan and Mikhail Morozov bought the most innovative paintings in the city – and bought in bulk. All his work came from the East, and would inspire two generations of Russian successors: Gauguin, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso. Together with his fellow textile owner and friendly rival collector Sergei Shchukin, Morozov made Moscow the offshore capital of French modern art in the years around 1900.

Then came the October Revolution, when all 200 paintings here were confiscated for the national collection. Ivan Morozov went into exile. Under Stalin, the paintings were suppressed, and scattered as far as Siberia.

Now, the Morozovs’ collection is mostly contained in the holdings of the Pushkin State Museum and the State Tretyakov Museum in Moscow and the State Hermitage Museum in St. His reimagining into four full floors of Frank Gehry’s glass sailboat in the Bois de Boulogne is, in a way, legitimately historic, something the show can actually claim: like entering a whole lost world from room to room. can be done.

Just get your Vaccine Passport and go! Nearly a decade in the making, twice delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, “The Morozov Collection” is what I like to call “once-in-a-lifetime” — or, perhaps, twice a lifetime. Five years ago, the Vuitton Foundation reimagined the Shchukin collection one more The museum-filling exhibition, whose scholarly heft was matched by its widespread popularity.

“Blockbuster’s blockbuster,” as I apparently named the Shchukin show when I Reviewed in 2016, attracted more than 1.2 million visitors, more than any Paris exhibition since King Tut’s crowds arrived in the city in 1967. It can’t be said that it will top that record, but in every way Morozov’s presentation is on par with the Shchukin showcase, and could be even harder to pull off.

Like its predecessor, it is curated with quiet precision by Anne Baldassari, the former director of the Picasso Museum in Paris, and comes with a backbreaking catalog – in fact the two are roughly the same size, making any descendant’s hold. to do away.

Like its predecessor, it required an enormous diplomatic effort, with assurances that French law would protect Russian museums against any claims by Morozov’s descendants, and A personal nod to a loan from President Vladimir V. Putin.

Like its predecessor, this budget had a larger budget, once again not disclosed. Insurance alone will do well in lakhs. Reframing, new glass: Another major cost center. The Vuitton Foundation also paid for a pop-up conservation studio in Russia restore multiple functions Here, like a suite of decorations (or a wall-filling painting) by Maurice Denis that hung in Ivan Morozov’s music room. Complain if you want big bucks in the art world, but sometimes it’s not so bad to have third richest person on earth Base your bills.

The show begins in the basement, with about two dozen photographs of the Morozov family, including several compelling portraits by Russian painter Valentin Serov. His portrait of Mikhail, at full length, depicts him in morning dress, rotund and self-confident. Mikhail was fond of Paris cabaret, and especially its showgirls. (He would die young, at age 33.)

Ivan, whose best portrait of Serov appears among later Matisse, was more businesslike and Muscovite, though no less experimental in his artistic taste. They were Old Believers, and relatively new money: his great-grandfather was a serf who bought his freedom with his wife’s dowry of five rubles.

Like much of Moscow’s high society, the Morozov brothers were also French-speaking – and found a cultural domain in Paris that they could plunge into and bring back home. The first showstopper of the exhibition is a room of mural-scale landscapes by Pierre Bonnard, commissioned for the staircase of Ivan Morozov’s Moscow mansion. The largest are over 10 feet tall, and they’re full of Mediterranean color, which would have stunned Russian beau monde at cocktail hour. Gauguin was another source of brilliant colour, and a dozen Tahitian photographs of surprisingly high quality were spread throughout his gallery here.

There was also an all-Gauguin room at the Shchukin presentation, and both that show and it provide incredible assistance from Cézanne, Monet, and Matisse. But the Russians were different collectors – “Morozov marched in the shadows, Shchukin in the light,” said one of his contemporaries – and so these are different shows.

Shchukin was bolder, especially in assembling Picasso, but Ivan Morozov had better eyesight. Shchukin became involved in French art, while Morozov also collected Russian artists; Here’s an illuminating pair of photos from an airy Renoir party and a plein-air boating scene by Russian painter Konstantin Korovin. (He also taught the Morozovs to paint as a child.) Shchukin bought on impulse; Ivan Morozov could wait a whole year, and envisioned building his collection as a museum.

And “The Morozov Collection” places a premium on this methodical, serial approach, grouping paintings together into thematic ensembles where French and Russian artists hang together. An impeccable painting of an acrobat of Picasso’s rose period, achieved after parting ways with Leo and Gertrude Stein, confronted with an indecently sexy double portrait by Ilya Machakov, with him and another artist holding dumbbells and music Presented with an instrument. (Sound Mind, Sound Body.) The landscapes of Van Gogh and Andre Deren meet with Natalia Goncharova, who would become a leading figure of the Soviet avant-garde.

The show breaks from this thematic point of view only once, for one of the most storied paintings in the Morozov collection: Van Gogh Bereft”.prison premises, in the last year of his life from the refuge of Saint-Rémy. On loan from Pushkin, it is hung under a spotlight, in a dim room separate from Morozov’s other van Goghs – to pump up its dismay, I suppose, though the light to my eyes is similar to that of a Moulin Rouge revue. seemed more appropriate.

They equally fool the Shchukin and Morozov collections, yet their final acts on the two Vuitton Foundation shows have radically different tones. The last one ended with the shock of the new: abstract paintings by Malevich, Rodchenko and other Soviet innovators, carrying the banner of modernism in the new Soviet Union. The show ends with a requiem for the past in the form of Morozov’s Music Room, which was renovated in 1909. Denis decorations, painted on the site in Moscow, illustrate the myth of Cupid and Pysh with a Lysergic palette of pinks and blues. . The curators have also chosen to pipe in lighter music, as if the ghosts of Romanov’s final days were still among us.

A century ago, the Denis decoration sparked a heated debate among the intellectuals and connoisseurs of Tsarist Moscow. They now appear more as a minor intermezzo before the major upheaval to come. No dynasty lasts forever: not the Morozovs, and certainly not the one who nationalized their mansion. Eventually the culture moves on – the painting returns to Paris, and Louis Vuitton opens a concession in Red Square.

Morozov Collection: Symbols of Modern Art
through February 22 at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris; fondationlouisvuitton.fr.



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