Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Russia and the Arts

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th March, 2016

Russia and the ArtsIvan MorosovOne hundred and sixty years ago, the National Portrait Gallery in London was founded, to house pictures of celebrated Britons. By a quirky coincidence that very same year, a similar but private institution was established in Moscow by the millionaire philanthropist, Pavel Tretyakov, who personally bought or commissioned portraits of notable Russians. His collection survived the Boshevik Revolution, becoming the State Tretyakov Gallery, one of the jewels of Moscow’s cultural crown. In a splendid example of cultural exchange (all the more remarkable because of the curent poor political relations between Britain and Russia these days), the two galleries have each arranged exhibitions of some of the other’s finest pieces. The NPG show (which runs until 26 June) offers a sumptuous selection of portraits from Russia’s golden age from the late 19th century up to he outbreak of the First World War. The names of many of the sitters will be familiar to all: Chekhov, Tolstoy, Thcaikovsky et al, but seeing them as vivid personalities captured on canvas is a rare treat. One can also chart some of the evolution of style and technique in Russian art from the portraits, from Realism through to Impressionism. In brief, this is an exhibitiion that should not be missed. A once in a lifetime opportunity for Londoners. There is also a beautiful companion book, Russia and the Arts, by Rosalind Blakesley.

{Illustration: Ivan Morosov by Valentin Serov}

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