The Shchukin’s collection at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
I was at Shchukin’s today… The thing that astounded, attracted and captivated us, resounding as a final triumphant final chord was Matisse’s new panel The Dance… This is the best thing Matisse has created and perhaps the best that the twentieth century has given us. This is not a painting, for it has no form. This is a new kind of monumental decorative art, a thousand time more powerful and astonishing.
Boris Ternovetz, January 1911
People mistreat me a little because of you. They say that I am doing harm to Russia and the young people of Russia by buying your paintings. I hope to emerge victorious some day, but I shall have to fight on for a few more years.
Sergei Shchukin to Henry Matisse, December 1910
Such controversial reaction to the paintings of the Impressionists was shown by public in Moscow at that time: some loved it at the first sight, some disliked it. The above described painting of Matisse is the centre of the exhibition that represents the collections of the Shchukin brothers.
It was the youngest brother, Ivan Shchukin who introduced Pyotr and Sergei to new French Art. By that time, Ivan had already gathered a small yet fairly representative collection of Symbolists and Impressionists. While living in Paris, he began to take interest in the old masters under the influence of his friend, the Spanish artist Ignacio Zuloaga.
The owner of outstanding masterpieces by Monet, Gaugin and Cezanne, the first patron of Matisse, and a devotee of Derain and Picasso, Sergei Shchukin was one of the greatest collectors of the 20th century. In less than 20 years, this Russian textile merchant purchased 256 Impressionist, Postimpressionist, Fauvist, and Cubist works.
The exhibition reconstructs the history of Sergei Shchukin’s artistic passions. Impressionist canvases are followed by works by Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gougain. The latter’s ornamentalism and love for the primitive life of exotic places provide a key for understanding the new colors and forms introduced into 20 th century Art by the next generation of French painters led by Matisse and Picasso.
in 1909, Sergei Shchukin took the daring step of commissioning Matisse to paint huge decorative canvases with naked figures for the staircase of his mansion. Firmly convinced that Matisse’s paintings were the art of the future, he bought two enormous works entitled Music and The Dance and displayed them in his mansion. With his fantastic intuition for all that was new and extraordinary, Sergei Shchukin became mesmerized by Picasso’s paintings. Subsequently he purchased and brought to Moscow works by Henri Rousseau and Andre Derain, his last passion.
The collections of the Shchukin brothers had a difficult fate, and none of them have been preserved in their original form. The present exhibition is atribute to the memory of individuals who left their outstanding collections as heritage for all mankind. People still stand in the queue to get to see the exhibition.