In the early 20th century, the Morozov and Shchukin families had a tremendous influence on cultural life in Moscow. Thanks to their activities the concept of a “patron of art” appeared. They contributed directly to international recognition for contemporary French artists. The collections of modern art assembled by the Morozov brothers and Sergei Shchukin are among the finest in the world and are today housed in museums in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
The Morozov family played an enormous role in the development of industry, the theatre and museums, and in introducing people to new Western painting. The history of the family is brief and astonishing. In the early 19th century, the serf Savva Morozov managed to set up his own workshop and earn enough to buy freedom for himself and his family. By the end of the 19th century, his grandson, also named Savva, was known for his connection to the Moscow Art Theatre. His great-grandchildren –Mikhail and Ivan – became formidable collectors of new Western painting. It is to them that the exhibition is dedicated that will open in the General Staff building in June this year, the first exhibition on such a scale in this grand building.
The display will include both the brothers’ collections, Mikhail’s and Ivan’s, that by the will of fate have ended up in different museums. The Russian paintings are mainly to be found in the Tretyakov Gallery, the new Western art in the Hermitage and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art. The two latter museums have combined their efforts in the organization of gala exhibitions that are to open almost simultaneously: the Shchukin one in Moscow, the Morozov one in Saint Petersburg. Around 60 paintings from Shchukin collection will be going from the Hermitage to the Pushkin Museum. Undoubtedly the symbol of that exhibition will be Matisse’s most famous painting, Dance, which was originally painted for Shchukin’s mansion in Moscow. The enormous decorative canvas very rarely leaves the walls of the Hermitage, as it is one of the most recognizable images of the museum on the River Neva. The 15 Matisses featured in the exhibition, among which mention must be made of the seminal Red Room, will convey Sergei Shchukin’s artistic preferences to maximum effect. Another no less important group contains 16 works by Pablo Picasso, including the most famous works from the Hermitage: Three Women and Boy with a Dog. There can be no doubt that the Hermitage section of our joint exhibition will be central in the display being planned for the museum.
The exhibition “The Morozov Brothers. Great Russian Collectors” will present 109 works of art from the stocks of the Hermitage and 31 paintings from the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts that were acquired by Ivan and Mikhail Morozov. Visitors will see celebrated masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso. At the exhibition Renoir’s two portraits of Jeanne Samary – from the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum – will “meet”. It will feature two large decorative panels painted by Claude Monet to a commission from the financier Ernest Hoschedé for his Château de Rottembourg at Montgeron: Corner of the Garden at Montgeron and Pond at Montgeron. The exhibition will include decorative ensembles by Post-Impressionist artists who founded the “Nabis” group: Pierre Bonnard’s Mediterranean triptych and Maurice Denis’s Story of Psyche cycle. Specially for the exhibition, the setting of Ivan Morozov’s White Hall (or Music Salon), for which the cycle about Psyche was commissioned in the spring of 1907, will be recreated. The Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum possess collections of Paul Cézanne’s works that are unique in their artistic standard, and a separate hall will be allotted to them. Three Picasso masterpieces will be coming to the Hermitage from Moscow – the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, Girl on the Ball and Harlequin and His Companion (The Saltimbanques), as well as Henri Matisse’s Moroccan Triptych that comprises View from a Window. Tangier, Zorah on the Terrace and The Casbah Gate. The Tretyakov Gallery will also be contributing to the exhibition, providing two celebrated portraits that Valentin Serov produced to a commission from the Morozov brothers.
In essence, the two exhibitions, in Moscow and in St Petersburg, imply one and the same idea – both Sergei Shchukin and the Morozov brothers collected Western paintings with one eye on Russian art: they did not seek in Paris paintings that resembled what the Itinerants were producing; they found the sort of works that could teach both Russian artists and the Russian public a great deal. It must not be forgotten that it was none other than Mikhail Morozov who discovered Gauguin and brought the first Van Gogh painting to Russia; that he was the one who discovered Bonnard; that it was his brother Ivan who formed a unique ensemble of Gauguin’s canvases and commissioned Maurice Denis to produce an unprecedented decoration for his Music Salon. The Hermitage’s exhibition commemorating these two great collectors will present their collections to visitors with as much fullness as possible.
The exhibition curator is Albert Grigoryevich Kostenevich, Doctor of Art Studies, chief researcher in the State Hermitage’s Department of Western European Fine Art.
A scholarly illustrated catalogue Brat'ia Morozovy. Velikie russkie kollektsionery [The Morozov Brothers. Great Russian Collectors] (State Hermitage Publishing House, 2019) is being prepared for the exhibition with introductions by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, and Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The catalogue text is by Albert Kostenevich.
The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive educational programme, including master classes, an intellectual marathon, lectures and meetings with the curators.
A brilliant event of the 2020 exhibition season will be the holding of a joint exhibition devoted to the Morozovs’ collections at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, which will bring together for the first time works not just from the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum, but also from the Tretyakov Gallery, while the finale of the cycle of exhibitions will be the showing of the Shchukin collection in St Petersburg and the Morozovs’ collections in Moscow.