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Wednesday February 27, 2008

From Russia

London seemed deserted (week after schools half term) and Robert and I comfortably got in to see the exhibition at the Royal Academy. The theme was the interaction of French and Russian art, showing the French influence which inspired a whole generation of Russian artists.


The Matisse is Danse II - Danse I being the more famous, I think, as it's in MoMA. Rob preferred the dining room picture, which was attached to a hilarious story. When purchased, it was a blue painting, but Matisse kept it for a while "to finish it off" - when the buyer received it, it had changed to be bright red - not the sort of thing you'd hardly notice.


There were galleries themed on the collections of two wealthy textile barons (Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov) who were avid collectors of the avant garde at the turn of the century. There was interest here in that though a lot of the very famous artists were represented, (Cezanne, Monet, Picasso etc), much of it was early and not very well known (but that might just be "known to me"!). Another gallery revolved around Diaghilev, and theatrical arts. Best known for his work with the Ballets Russes, he encouraged and sponsored composers and artists, especially as they related to ballet and theatrical design. Between 1897 (when he was only 25) and 1906 he organised 11 exhibitions introducing Western (French) art to Russia. Finally, we moved into the abstracts of Kandinsky, the radical abstracts of Malevich (which are supposed to be a search for pure art but seem to me to be a rejection of it eg "Black Square" 1923), and Tatlin's constructivism. There was a scale model , and a computer-generated film, of his most ambitious project (not realised) intended to be built in Petrograd, and to rival the Eiffel Tower.

Alongside the paintings there were a number of photographs of the artists and the subjects. I found this very interesting. My favourite is a fabulous portrait - but it turned out to be an obvious mainstream choice in that I discovered it was the chosen cover picture for the catalogue. It really is very striking - I loved the colours and the cubist style.


In addition to the actual painting, the subject herself, Anna Akhmatova is very interesting. She was obviously a multi-talented intellectual and with striking features - hailed as a beauty though not "pretty", as such, which I like very much. ["Woman with big nose hailed as beauty" - that kind of thing].
Of yet more interest to me, she met Modigliani in Paris, (while on her honeymoon no less! - though it sounds like her husband was not much better in the fidelity stakes), and between 1910 and 1912 Modigliani executed a number of portraits of her (see the extended entry).

Finally, I would pick out this Rousseaux. While viewing it, I was struck by the thought that I had not seen many paintings of people by him - but then immediately realised this was not at all true, and one of the most famous is a nude in The Dream, (again in MoMA). Anyway, this was a moderately large canvas called the Artist and his Muse, but actually depicting a real couple.


I am not sure that this is a picture of Anna Akhmatova, but I could not resist showing it, although it is in MoMA, and was nothing to do with this exhibition. Modigliani's paintings date mainly from a period after she had left Paris. However, you can see that her physique embodied his idealised style as shown here.


Posted by Christina at 3:30 PM. Category: Art and Culture