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THE POUCHKINE MUSEUM

Five Hundred Years of Master Drawings

 

This first large retrospective exhibition in France of the works on paper from the Moscow museum contains examples from the European and Russian Schools, dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries. The selection of more than two hundred works gives the public a taste of this remarkable collection. Dürer, Veronese, Rubens, Fragonard, Tiepolo, Friedrich, Kandinsky, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Chagall and Malevich are displayed alongside the great names of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh.

 

The Pushkin Museum was founded at the beginning of the 20th century. The collection was started by Professor Ivan Tsvetaev in 1912, then added to throughout the century. The collection of graphic art, today numbering more than 350,000 prints and 27,000 drawings, was built up from donations by private collectors in Russia, acquisitions and the transfer of works of art from other museums including the Rumiantsev Museum, the Hermitage, the Russian Museum and the National Museum of Modern Western Art.

 

The Renaissance in Germany and Italy

Visitors will immediately find themselves immersed in a panoramic history of drawing, beginning with German drawings of the late Middle Ages including Putti Dancing and Playing Music by Albrecht Dürer.
These German sheets are hung among drawings by Italian artists of the Renaissance and the Mannerist period. Vittore Carpaccio, taking a subject from Humanist culture, depicts a scholar at work in his study (1502-1507), whereas the delicate profiles and the sensitive modelling of the Studies of Heads by Parmigianino (1525-1527) reveal the talent of the draughtsman from Parma.
Two of the drawings by the Cavaliere d’Arpino on display in the Fondation Custodia were executed for a cycle of paintings about the life of Saint Matthew in the Contarelli Chapel of the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, in Rome. They provide rare insight into the artist’s ideas for paintings that were never to be executed.

 

 

 

Poussin, Rubens et Rembrandt, the XVIIth Century

The collection of 17th-century drawings on show includes three by one of France’s greatest representatives of classical art, Nicolas Poussin; among them is his brilliant study for Zenobia Found on the Riverbank of Arax (c. 1640).
This section of the exhibition is dominated by drawings belonging to the Dutch Golden Age, including landscapes by Jan van Goyen, Allaert van Everdingen and Nicolaes Berchem, as well as figure studies.
The drawings of Rembrandt were often notes drawn from life as he went walking. The Study of a Woman Holding a Child (c. 1650) of the Pushkin Museum is a fine example of these rapid pen and ink sketches, in which he retains the freshness of a first impression.
A number of drawings by Rubens have travelled from Moscow to Paris, including the Centaur Tormented by Cupid (1605-1608). This large sheet is a study of a marble statue dating from the second century BC, now in the Louvre. As in Rubens’ paintings, the antique statue is divested of its rigid quality and resembles a living being.

 

The Enlightenment

A drawing by Antoine Watteau, a classic example of the taste for gallantry prevailing at the time, introduces French art of the 18th century. Watteau’s drawing finds a response in the relaxed, graceful pose of François Boucher’s Young Woman Sleeping (c. 1758-1760), a life drawing whose painstaking technique indicates that it is intended as a finished, autonomous piece.
Fragonard’s output of drawings was enormous and The Attack from the Pushkin Museum is one of the most impressive. The compact composition and spirited brushwork, used in the addition of the colour wash, lend the confrontation maximum intensity and major plastic strength. The same feeling of monumentality emanates from the Study for the Figure of Hersilia, a drawing by Jacques-Louis David executed in preparation for the main figure in the celebrated painting of the Sabine Women, now in the Louvre.

 

The 19th Century

Caspar David Friedrich, undoubtedly the leading representative of German Romanticism, opens the 19th century. During his lifetime, Friedrich enjoyed great popularity in Russia. The drawing of Two Men on the Seacoast is a late work by the artist. Such figures, seen from behind staring out at a landscape, occur frequently in Friedrich’s work. The contemplative nature of this sheet is typical of Romantic art.
After Ingres, Corot and Delacroix, the journey through the 19th century proceeds with works by Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, as well as Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon.
The only drawing by Van Gogh to be found in any Russian public collection, the Portrait of a Young Woman, is connected to La Mousmé, painted in July 1888 and now in Washington. The drawing reproduces the painting (the colours are noted in the margin) and was presumably attached to a letter from Van Gogh to his friend Émile Bernard.

 

Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, The European and Russian Avant-Gardes

The second part of the exhibition is devoted to the European and Russian avant-gardes of the early part of the 20th century, from Matisse and Picasso to Delaunay, via Signac, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger (with seven drawings) and also Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Giorgio De Chirico and Modigliani.
The Pushkin Museum holds a large collection of drawings by Matisse. Most of these were donated by Lydia Delectorskaya, Matisse’s secretary, friend and collaborator. Her Portrait is one of the masterpieces of the exhibition. Erasing and endlessly re-working his drawing, Matisse grew farther and farther from the original descriptive aspect of the portrait in the search for a drawing with strong, pure lines.
If the drawing of the Dance seems familiar, this is because it is connected to Matisse’s famous painting of the same name, now in MoMA, New York. When he discovered the painting in Paris in February 1909, the famous Russian collector Sergei Shchukin wished to obtain a similar panel for his private residence in Moscow.

 

 

A room is devoted to six drawings by Picasso held in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Among these, the preparatory drawing for Picasso’s Composition with a Skull (1908) is typical of the Cubist aesthetic, whose greatest interpreter was Picasso himself: here, in abstract space, the bold colours of Cubism combine with the rhythms of deconstructed objects.
Like an exhibition within an exhibition, the selection of Russian drawings illustrates the general development of the School, from the members of artistic groups at the turn of the century (Mir Iskusstva, Golubaya, the Union of Russian painters) to Soviet art, whose new subjects and original plastic expression betray a profoundly modified state of affairs. While some of the artists enjoyed great fame in the West during their lifetime – Chagall, Kandinsky, Tatlin, Malevich – others like Deineka will come as a revelation to the public.
Vassily Kandinsky’s Composition E perfectly illustrates his output in the early 1910s. He was fascinated by synthetic art, exploring the interaction between painting and music, creating parallels between colour and sound, line and rhythm. His watercolours are veritable symphonies of colour.
In 1964, the art historian, collector and founder of the Fondation Custodia Frits Lugt (1884-1970), travelled to Russia where he visited the Department of Prints and Drawings in the Pushkin Museum. He considered this to be the last major collection of drawings remaining to be discovered by him. Now the French public is also able to admire the masterpieces from the Pushkin Museum.

 

from 2 February to 12 May 2019

 

FONDATION CUSTODIA

121, Rue de Lille, 75007 Paris