THE NATIONAL GALLERY
THE MUSEUM OF RUSSIAN IMPRESSIONISM
THROUGH THE OPEN WINDOWS
Paintings from the collection of the Museum of Russian Impressionism
7 October – 23 November 2016
The Palace, 1, Knyaz Alexander I Sq.
In seven of the galleries of the largest art museum in Bulgaria, sixty-six paintings expanding our knowledge of the history of Russian art of the past 130 years are presented.
The Museum of Russian Impressionism was opened in May 2016 in the centre of Moscow, within the precincts of the famous ‘Bolshevik’ confectionery factory. At the beginning of this century, confectionery production was moved elsewhere and the old buildings were transferred to the private sector. A project by the British architectural practice, John McAslan + Partners, and its Design Director, Aidan Potter, for the redevelopment of the buildings was approved. Over the course of several years, the dilapidated workshops were restored and converted into a Class 'A' business centre. The Museum of Russian Impressionism is located in the inner courtyard of this centre, which retains its historic name, 'Bolshevik'.
Built in the 1960s as a flour warehouse, the building is a model of 'slipshod' Soviet constructivism. Its cylindrical shape is augmented by a rectangular block on the rooftop. Aidan Potter lends clarity and completeness to the architectural silhouette of the building, skilfully blending it with a stylish aluminium mesh. In the former warehouse with its total area of 1000 sq. m, there are three exhibition halls, depositories for paintings equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, a modern multimedia hall with a capacity to screen films in 2D and 3D formats, a training studio, a spacious entrance foyer, a café, two rooftop summer terraces and a souvenir and book shop.
The private collection of the patron Boris Mints is the basis of the collection of the Museum of Russian Impressionism. For nearly fifteen years, the businessman collected works of Russian painting of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, executed in the style of Impressionism. His goal is to remind the public of the undeservedly forgotten names of artists, many of whom had left Russia after the October Revolution in 1917.
During the first three months after its opening, the Museum of Russian Impressionism welcomed more than 30,000 visitors. In early September, the permanent exposition and the first temporary exhibition, entitled 'Arnold Lakhovsky. The Fascinated Stranger', were followed by a large exhibition of the famous contemporary artist, Valery Koshlyakov. The presentation in Bulgaria of the collection is a continuation of the international programme of the Museum of Russian Impressionism. In 2014 and 2015, it was on display in Russia (Ivanovo, Yekaterinburg, Voronezh, Saint Petersburg, Ulyanovsk, and Saratov) and at the Palazzo Franchetti in Venice and the Augustiner Museum in Freiburg.
The meaning and poetics of the title, 'Through the Open Windows' are concordant with the motif of the wide-open window in the paintings included in the exhibition. This is also the leitmotif of the permanent exposition of the museum.
The earliest 'Window' in the collection of the museum is from 1886. It was painted by Valentin Serov, a friend and fellow student of the 'natural Impressionist', Konstantin Korovin. Plein-airism, originating partly in the womb of Russian Realism, and partly adopting elements of French Impressionism, is like a breath of fresh air from an open window that revived Russian painting on the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The painting of Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, 'Summer' (1911), with a window opening onto a garden illuminated by midday light, is a programme work of Russian Impressionism. It is pierced by a sense of the elusive moment of harmony between man and nature. And although Impressionism became an important stage in the creative development of the most avant-garde Russian painters, such as Mikhail Larionov and Wassily Kandinski (while Malevich 'completed writing' his Impressionistic period in his later works), it did not form as a 'movement’ in Russia, while the Soviet government declared it to be 'bourgeois' art. Many of the artists who emigrated, almost forgotten today in their homeland, continued to work in the mainstream of Impressionism.
'Interior of a Room' (1910s–1920s) by Stanislav Zhukovsky was inspired by his memories of distant childhood. The son of an aristocrat who had lost his family property, the artist frequently turned to the theme of aristocratic estates. And the room with its open window, full of life, light, and air, is also a memory, a return to the past.
In the 1950s, the patriarch of Socialist Realism, Alexander Gerasimov, painted a bouquet of lilac, placed on a window sill, covered with drops of the rain that had just stopped—an amazingly natural and lyrical theme for that time. During this period, the paintings executed in the tradition of Impressionism—leisurely walks, landscapes, interiors and still lifes—were an escape and a small field of freedom for Soviet artists.
The exhibition in Sofia is showing for the first time several new acquisitions from the collection of the museum. Among them are paintings by Alexei Isupov and Konstantin Gorbatov.
A catalogue in Bulgarian has been published to accompany the exhibition. Musical compositions by the famous contemporary composer, Dmitry Kurlyandski, inspired by the paintings of the Museum of Russian Impressionism, will be replayed in the halls of the National Gallery.
Curator of the exhibition: Yulia Petrova, Director of the Museum of Russian Impressionism
Chief curator: Natalia Sviridova
For further information:
National Gallery – 0879 834 041