Paul Signac 'Leaving the Port of Marseille', 1906, oil on canvas. c:  The State Hermitage Museum 2018, Vladimir Terebenin.
Paul Signac 'Leaving the Port of Marseille', 1906, oil on canvas. c: The State Hermitage Museum 2018, Vladimir Terebenin. The State Hermitage Museum

Towering figures of modern art come to Sydney

TREASURES from one of the world's greatest art museum, the St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum, go on display at the Art Gallery of NSW from October 13, 2018 to March 3, 2019.

The Masters of modern art from the Hermitage exhibition will showcase the colour and form of 65 modern masters' works including Monet, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and Gauguin, and celebrated Russian contemporaries Kandinsky and Malevich.

The significant works include Monet's Poppy field c1890; Cézanne's Great pine near Aix, 1895/97; Picasso's Table in a Cafe, 1912; Gauguin's Month of Mary 1899; Matisse's Nymph and Satyr 1908; Kandinsky's Landscape near Dünaberg 1913 and Malevich's Black Square c.1932.

AGNSW curator of European prints and drawings Peter Raissis, said the work of the great agents of modernism in painting in the early 20th century represents one of the most striking progressive movements in the history of western art.

"The artists represented in the exhibition discovered that painting had its own autonomous meaning - that colour, line, shape, tone, spaciality, symmetry or asymmetry, and the urgency of pure expression could be themes in, and of, themselves," Raissis said.

The exhibition also tells the story of the Russian collectors Sergey Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, both wealthy businessmen who first championed the ground-breaking works of the French modern masters and brought their work together with great passion.

Shchukin assembled a singular collection of the most radical French art of the day, opening his residence to the public so local art students such as Malevich, could study the major works of European painters. "As Shchukin's collection was on public display, it played a significant role in shaping the birth of the Russian avant-garde," Raissis said.

Over two thirds of the works in the exhibition are from the collections of Shchukin and Morozov, and archival photographs show how some of the works were displayed by Shchukin in his Trubetskoy Palace in Moscow, where Russian art lovers, intellectuals and artists were welcomed.

Another highlight of the exhibition is an immersive video installation by Saskia Boddeke and the famous British filmmaker Peter Greenaway. Launched in Europe at the Fondation Louis Vuitton last year, the installation, restaged for AGNSW, engages visitors in an extraordinary dialogue between Shchukin and Matisse, and highlights the impact of the works of Matisse on young Russian artists.

The exhibition concludes with works by the Russian artists Kandinsky and Malevich who were not only highly receptive to the influence of modern French painting, but whose art was shaped by its radical possibilities.

The exhibition is presented as part of the annual Sydney International Art Series which brings the world's most outstanding artists and their works exclusively to Sydney at the Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Contemporary Art.

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