French Drawings and Paintings from the Hermitage:
Poussin to Picasso
The exhibition showed 75 drawings and 8 paintings of French masters from the 16th to 20th century provided by the State Hermitage Museum. The exhibit included oeuvres of renowned painters like Clouet, Poussin, Bellange, Watteau, Boucher, Oudry, Greuze, Ingres, Degas, Manet, Matisse and Picasso. The public was interested to see side by side drawings and paintings by the same author, both preparations for a painting and independent works.
There are more than 40,000 items in the Hermitage Cabinet of Drawings, one of the largest collections in the world where French drawings from the 16th to early 20th century feature prominently.
The First Gallery showed works from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Among the crayon portraits, the earliest was Portrait of Charles IX
(1566) by Francois Clouet
The exhibition featured drawings by Jacques de Bellange (c.1575?-1616), both his earlier genre drawings and later works. Paintings by Bellange are now extremely rare and this is the reason why it was so interesting to see Lamentation (c.1616-1617).
Jacques Callot (1592-1635) was represented in the exhibit by three expressive drawings which convey various aspects of his genius. The drawing Parterre of Nancy is one of the painter's chefs-d'oeuvre. Works by Claude Gellée, known as Lorrain (1600-1682), were also on display: the painting Italian Landscape (1648) and the drawings View of the Church of S. Trinita dei Monti in Rome and Landscape with Figures.
The sketches by Charles Lebrun (1619-1690) for tapestries or the Snake Plafond from the castle Veau-le-Vicomte amply show this master's talent of drawing.
The Second Gallery displayed works of such famous 18th-century artists as Antoine Watteau, Jean-Baptiste Oudry and Francois Boucher.
Decorative compositions by Antoine Watteau (1648-1721) are rather rare and this made Autumn and The Birth of Venus (early 1710s) especially precious.
François Boucher (1703-1770) was represented by three works including Young Woman in a Chair at a Table. This is the personage of the Louvre painting Breakfast (1739) showing the painter's family. The painting Landscape with a Pond (1746) is a 'pure' landscape, very unusual for Boucher.
Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755) was also represented by three drawings, including Hunting Trophies by a Fountain, which brings together all the elements so beloved of the artist who is renowned as a painter of animals, still life and landscape.
The Third Gallery was devoted to the works of Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). His famous canvas Filial Piety (1763) acquired by Catherine the Great in 1766 was for the first time displayed outside Russia alongside eight studies for the painting. The studies for Filial Piety may be considered the painter's greatest achievement in drawing.
The same gallery also showed three drawings by Hubert Robert (1733-1808) created in Italy. The artist was in love with Rome and its environs, especially Villa Madama (Villa Madama, c.1760). The watercolour Woman Painter Amongst Ancient Ruins (1796) is characteristic of the master's later years.
The Fourth Gallery was devoted to works of the 19th and 20th centuries by artists including Ingres, Doré, Degas, Manet, Matisse and Picasso. While most of the early French drawings were acquired by Catherine II, 19th- and 20th-century works came to the Hermitage from private collections as was the case with a pencil portrait of a Russian general (1815) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1789-1867).
The drawing of Madame Jules Guillemet by Edouard Manet (1832-1883) served as a study for the 1880 crayon portrait, now at the Art Museum of St Louis. The motif used by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) in his study Seated Dancer (1875-1876) was later variously reproduced by the artist over many years. Five drawings by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) were exhibited at Somerset House alongside an oil portrait of L.N. Delectorskaya (1947). They were presented to the Hermitage together with 21 other drawings in 1967 by Matisse's secretary and assistant L.N. Delectorskaya.
The exhibition ended with two early gouaches and the painting Brick Factory in Tortosa (1909) by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) coming from the renowned collection of S.I. Shchukin, and his drawing Scene of the Ballet 'La Boutique Fantastique': Cancan (1919) that was presented in 1991 to St Petersburg by the famous ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov in celebration of the restoration of the city's historic name.
The State Hermitage frequently loans individual drawings to international exhibitions but that was the first time such a number of drawing masterpieces were presented together.