About the exhibition
This exhibition is a unique opportunity to explore the fascinating exchange that existed between French and Russian art during a crucial period that was witness to upheaval and revolution. All the paintings have been lent by the four principal Russian museums: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and The State Hermitage Museum and The State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. For the first time, works from these museums have been gathered for a single exhibition.
The four sections
French and Russian realists
The exhibition will be structured around four main themes starting with a presentation of works by the Russian realists, namely the Wanderers, an important group of Russian artists who broke away from the St Petersburg Academy and focused on Russian landscape, contemporary social issues, scenes from traditional peasant life and Russian history. Works by Ilya Repin, Ivan Kramskoy, Isaak Levitan, Valentin Serov and Mikhail Nesterov and others are shown with paintings by French artists of the Barbizon school such as Théodore Rousseau, Charles Daubigny and Jean-François Millet as well as the Salon painters Jules Bastien-Lepage and Albert Besnard.
The great collectors Shchukin and Morozov
The second section of the exhibition displays masterpieces from the two great Moscow collections, those of Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin. These two Moscow textile merchants were, without doubt, the most brilliant and daring Russian collectors of their day. They scoured Paris for paintings by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and accumulated works by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso. Shchukin became Matisse’s greatest patron, commissioning the celebrated The Dance as part of an astonishingly bold scheme to decorate the grand staircase of his Moscow mansion. The Dance is perhaps the most sensational highlight of the exhibition.
Diaghilev and the World of Art movement
The third section of the exhibition is devoted to the famous theatrical impresario and exhibition-maker Sergei Diaghilev, who was at the forefront of the World of Art movement. He played a vital role not only in presenting modern French art in Russia but also in taking Russian art to the West, particularly in Paris. Artists presented in this section of the exhibition will also include Alexander Benois and Leon Bakst, Boris Kustodiev, Nochiolas Roerich, Alexander Golovin and Valentin Serov as well as a selection of impressive portraits of great figures of Russian cultural life such as Vsevolod Meyerhold, Feodor Chaliapin and Anna Akhmatova.
Cross-currents between Russian and French art were particularly fertile in the early twentieth century. The final section of the exhibition encompasses the exhilarating kaleidoscope of rapidly succeeding artistic developments. Wasily Kandinsky drew on the imagery of Russian fairy tales and combined it with Fauvist colour as a starting point for his daring steps towards abstraction, while Marc Chagall adapted elements of French Cubism to his highly individual and poetic distillation of Russian-Jewish folklore. Bold reinterpretations of Cubism, as well as Italian Futurism, resulted in the brilliant Cubo-Futurist works by artists such as Natalia Goncharova. Suprematism, the radical, purely abstract style pioneered by Kazimir Malevich, is the culmination of these experiments and the exhibition will close with his celebrated Black Circle, Black Cross and Black Square that seemed to reject all forms of pictorial tradition.
Inside the collectors' mansions
See some of the exhibition's key works as they appeared in the opulent mansions of Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morosov.
Listen to renowned Picasso biographer John Richardson in conversation with Richard Shone in an audio recording of this RA Public Programme event.
NEW: Co-curator Ann Dumas presents an introduction to the exhibition
Hilary Spurling on the great collectors Shchukin and Morozov, plus an essential guide to the four state Russian museums, Professor Eric Hobsbawm on the Russian Avant-Garde and an interview with Irina Antonova, Director of The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.
Read RA Magazine online
Learn more with An Introduction to the Exhibition for teachers and secondary students.
Click here to download An Introduction to the Exhibition (0.9 MB)
E.ON UK Chief Executive Paul Golby said: 'E.ON is delighted to be associated with this landmark exhibition co-curated by the Royal Academy of Arts and the Museum Kunst Palast. As the UK’s leading power and gas company and one of Europe’s largest utilities, we have been instrumental in initiating this idea. E.ON’s contacts through its long-standing and close energy partnership with Russia helped in securing agreement from the four largest and best-known Russian galleries to bring these major works to the Royal Academy.
The exhibition will come to London from Russia via the Museum Kunst Palast in Dusseldorf where it will be displayed for four months – again, sponsored by E.ON. At a time when the energy relationship between Europe and Russia continues to deepen, E.ON is proud to play a pivotal role helping foster a similar relationship in the world of art.'
About E.ON UK
E.ON UK is the UK’s largest integrated power and gas company – generating and distributing electricity, and retailing power and gas – and is part of the E.ON group, the world's largest investor-owned power and gas company. We employ around 70,000 people worldwide of which 16,000 are in the UK.
Our retail business is a leading energy supplier in the UK, with around 8.1 million electricity and gas customer accounts, both domestic and SME. In addition, we have around 13,000 industrial and commercial customers.
The works of art loaned for this exhibition are protected under Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (protection of cultural objects on loan).