Matisse to Malevich: Pioneers of Modern Art from the Hermitage

The exhibition underlines art history’s—and the Hermitage’s—debt to Ivan Morozov and Sergej Shchukin who commissioned and collected many of the works


Hermitage Amsterdam

6 March-17 September

For the Hermitage Amsterdam’s exhibition, many of the greatest European early 20th-century paintings in the Russian museum’s collection art have travelled from St Petersburg. Besides works by Matisse and Malevich, the loans include 12 paintings by Picasso, as well as works by Derain, Vlaminck and Van Dongen. The exhibition underlines art history’s—and the Hermitage’s—debt to the Russian businessmen Ivan Morozov and Sergej Shchukin who commissioned and collected many of the works. “It isn’t just the artists who were the pioneers of the title of the exhibition. Morozov and Shchukin were pioneers too,” said Marlies Kleiterp, the director of exhibitions in Amsterdam. “Their idea was to hang these paintings in their homes and open them to the public to influence the Russian public and Russian artists.” Among the more than 75 works displayed in the Netherlands for the first time are: The Absinthe Drinker, 1901, by Picasso, (above); Matisse’s The Red Room, 1908, and Malevich’s Black Square, around 1930, which provides the finale of the exhibition. Works by Russian artists also include paintings by Kandinsky, placing Russian art into the context of the new departures in art being made in Europe at the start of the 20th century, ranging from fauvist to cubist, abstract and purist paintings. Ernst Veen, the director of the Hermitage Amsterdam had “dreamed” of such an exhibition ever since a Dutch branch of the St Petersburg museum was first mooted in the 1990s. When Veen toured the Hermitage’s galleries with its director, Mikhail Piotrovsky they decided to hold fire, however. “In the beginning we thought we’d open with this exhibition but we changed our minds, opening with a typical Russian subject,” said Marlies Kleiterp, referring to Amsterdam Hermitage’s first show about life in the imperial court during the 19th century. “A new museum attracts a lot of visitors, and it will diminish a little after that, [so] we really needed a great second exhibition to keep people coming back.” An exhibition of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings is planned in the next two years to keep the Amsterdam box office busy.


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