Did Catherine the Great have an eye for art? West Coast art lovers will get a rare chance to judge for themselves as a dramatic collection of 16th- to 19th-century art emerges from the grand halls of the Hermitage and into public view. An Imperial Collection: Women Artists from the State Hermitage Museum will be on display at the Frye Art Museum from July 26-November 30, 2003. The exhibition features women artists from across Europe whose work caught the eye of the Russian court and aristocracy. These artists, along with their noble subjects, made major contributions to Russian imperial, social and cultural history.
The paintings, sculptures and watercolors once adorned the walls of Russian palaces and reflect the collecting tastes of royalty and well-born families in 18th- and 19th- century Russia. For many years, the paintings have been part of Russia’s official collection at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. This is the collection’s only appearance on the American West Coast. The exhibition also coincides with the 300th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg.
In 1764, Catherine the Great purchased an important and large collection of Western European paintings that became the core of the Hermitage collection, securing her reputation as a patron of the arts for the new capital city. It was during her reign that art collecting became an avid pursuit of the nobility, attracting to Russia such important artists as Marie-Anne Collot and Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun from France. The exhibition explores how these and other women artists such as Christina Robertson from Scotland benefited from their Russian experiences, adapted to St. Petersburg life, and offered distinctive responses to their adopted home.
Other artists whose work is presented in the exhibition never lived in Russia, but the nobility traveling abroad discovered their work and offered them commissions. They include 18th-century Swiss artist Angelica Kauffman and Anna Dorothea Therbusch-Lisiewska, a native of Berlin who worked in Paris and was singled out by Catherine the Great’s envoy to Paris as an artist to commission.
An Imperial Collection: Women Artists from the State Hermitage Museum was organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. in association with the State Hermitage Museum. One of the great museums of the world, the Hermitage opened to the public in 1922; among the thousands of paintings and sculptures in the permanent collection are many noteworthy works by women artists.
Funding for this exhibition was generously provided by John F. and Adrienne B. Mars, with additional support from The Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust, Trust for Mutual Understanding, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.&bsp; This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Christina Robertson (1796-1854)
Portrait of Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, 1840-41
Oil on canvas,
104 x 64 in.
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia 2003