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Exploring the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

The accumulated treasures of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts reflect the tastes of many private collectors, whose holdings were nationalized by the Soviet government after the Revolution. The most important of these belonged to two outstanding connoisseurs, Sergey Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. By 1914, Shchukin had acquired more than 220 paintings by French artists, including many by Cézanne. Even more importantly, Shchukin championed Matisse and Picasso when they were still relatively unknown. Morozov also collected canvases by these two painters along with pictures by Renoir, Van Gogh and Gauguin.


The museum’s archaeological exhibits come from as far afield as ancient Mesopotamia and the Mayan Empire. Among them is a fascinating collection donated by the Egyptologist Vladimir Golenishchev in 1913. The display includes the renowned tomb portraits from Fayoum and two exquisite ebony figurines of the high priest Amen-Hotep and his wife, the priestess Re-nai
There is also an assortment of items from ancient Greece and Rome including a fine collection of black-figure and red-figure style Greek vases. The fabulous Treasure of Troy display, with gold artifacts excavated from the legendary city in the 1870s is now open to the public again.


The Pushkin Museum contains a small, but memorable, collection of Medieval and Renaissance art. It includes a series of altar panels painted in the Byzantine tradition by Italian artists. Siena was a major artistic centre in the 14th century and Simone Martini was a leading master of the Sienese school. His naturalistic images of St Augustine and Mary Magdalene, painted in the 1320s, are among the exhibits
There are also a number of later religious pieces on show, including a triptych by Pietro di Giovanni Lianori. Two outstanding old masters painted in the 1490s are also displayed here: the superb Annunciation, painted by Sandro Botticelli, and the Madonna and Child by Pietro Perugino. The museum is not so well endowed with German and Flemish art of the period. However, two notable exceptions are Pieter Breughel the Younger’s Winter Landscape with Bird Trap and Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Virgin and Child. Painted on wood, the latter places the Virgin and Child in the context of a typical German landscape.


The Pushkin Museum has an enviable collection of 17thcentury Dutch and Flemish masters. It includes Anthony Van Dyck’s accomplished portraits of the wealthy burgher, Adriaen Stevens, and his wife, Maria Boschaert, both painted in 1629, and some evocative landscapes by Jan Van Goyen and Jacob van Ruysdael. Also on show are still lifes by Frans Snyders, some delightful genre scenes by Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch and Gabriel Metsu and several works by Peter Paul Rubens, including the characteristically flamboyant and sensual Bacchanalia (c.1615). Six of Rembrandt’s masterly canvases, along with some of his drawings and etchings, are displayed in the gallery. The paintings include the biblical Ahasuerus, Haman and Esther (1660), Christ Driving the Money-Changers from the Temple (1626) and An Old Woman, a sensitive portrait of the artist’s mother (1654).

The gallery has a modest collection of Spanish and Italian paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Of the Spanish artists, Bartholomé Esteban Murillo, known for his religious scenes and portraits, is probably the best known. The works on show by Italian artists include Betrothal of the Doge and the Sea (1729–30) by Canaletto, widely considered the master of the style of urban landscape known as veduta

The Pushkin Museum is justly famous for its collection of French art, which includes paintings of classical and epic subjects by a variety of artists. Among the paintings on show are Nicolas Poussin’s dramatic work, The Battle of the Israelites with the Amorri (c.1625) and François Boucher’s painting, Hercules and Omphale (1730s). The latter depicts the myth of Hercules, who was sold as a slave to Queen Omphale.


In the early 19th century Classicism in art gradually yielded to Romanticism. Works such as After the Shipwreck (1847) by Eugène Delacroix, which portrays the sea as a force of nature, unpredictable and hostile to man, were the result of this shift. Works by other artists of the period, such as the landscape painters John Constable and Caspar David Friedrich, are also on show

The Pushkin Museum has a fine collection of paintings by artists of the French Barbizon school, who were the predecessors of the Impressionists. These include landscapes by Camille Corot, François Millet and Gustave Courbet. Paintings from the enormous collection of works by the Impressionists themselves are displayed in rotation. Visitors can look forward to a selection of canvases by artists such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet. The museum owns eleven paintings by Monet, including Lilac in the Sun (1873) and two from a series of 20 paintings of the cathedral at Rouen. There are also some excellent paintings by Renoir including Nude and the radiant Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary (1877). Alongside landscapes and street scenes by Alfred Sisley and Camille Pisarro are Blue Dancers (c.1899) and Dancers at a Rehearsal (1875–77), two of Degas’ many ballet scenes.

Sculptures by Auguste Rodin are also part of the collection. They include a bust of Victor Hugo and preparatory studies for the famous Kiss (1886) and Burghers of Calais (1884–6).


Post-Impressionism is the term generally used to describe the various styles of painting developed by the generation of artists that came after the Impressionists. This school includes Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.
A marvellous array of paintings by Paul Cézanne is on show in the gallery, including his Self-portrait (early 1880s), Pierrot and Harlequin (1888) and a late version of Mont Ste-Victoire (1905). His Pierrot and Harlequin (1888) depicts characters from the Mardi-Gras Carnivals. In 1888, Paul Gauguin stayed with Van Gogh for two months in Arles. Gauguin’s Café in Arles and Van Gogh’s intense Red Vineyards in Arles, both painted during the visit, hang in the Pushkin Museum. The gallery also has several later works by Van Gogh, including The Prison Courtyard (1890) and Wheatfields in Auvers, After the Rain (1890). His Portrait of Dr Rey (1889) emphasizes the sympathetic nature of the doctor who showed so much kindness to the sick artist

the sick artist. In 1891 Gauguin moved to Tahiti and a number of works from this period, including Are You Jealous? (1892) and The Great Buddha (1899), are also displayed here. Some of Henri Matisse’s greatest masterpieces are in the Pushkin Museum, including The Painter’s Studio (1911) and Goldfish (1911). There are also over 50 paintings by Matisse’s friend, Pablo Picasso, including Young Acrobat on a Ball, painted in 1905, and Harlequin and His Companion, dating from 1901. A number of other 20th-century artists are also represented in the collection. Highlights include The Artist and his Bride (1980) by Marc Chagall and the abstract Improvisation No. 20 by Vasily Kandinsky

Exploring the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts Exploring the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts Reviewed by MELANIE INFINITY on January 08, 2020 Rating: 5

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