Prior to the Revolution of 1917, Russia had one of the greatest traditions of private art collecting in the world. The first great collections were created by the aristocracy, and then by the newly rich industrialists and businessmen in the 19th century. Finally came the 'Merchant Princes', who were among the first and most important collectors of Impressionist and Modern Art. After 1917, all these collections were confiscated by the State, put into reserves in Moscow and Leningrad, and eventually integrated into the collections of the State Hermitage, the Tretiakov Museum, the Pushkin Museum and other institutions. This beautiful, all-colour book recreates the collections as they were, describes how they were made and by whom, and offers not only stunning photographs of the great treasures themselves, but portraits of the owners, illustrations of the exteriors and interiors of their palaces as they were when the collections were in situ. Superb images of the cream of each collection follows each one's history.
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Mikhail Piotrovsky is the Director of the State Hermitage, St Petersburg. Oleg Neverov is widely published art historian. His book The Hermitage: Essays on the History of the Collection has been a bestseller in several languages.From Publishers Weekly:
Families like the Stroganovs or Tretyakovs may be vaguely familiar to U.S. readers, but most of the 30 clans and individuals that did the bulk of Russia's collecting over three centuries will not—making this book all the more valuable. Matching masterworks with the rich travelers to Europe (where most pieces originated) who recognized them and brought them back, most often, to Petersburg, Neverov, a curator at Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum, shows how that institution, along with the Pushkin in Moscow and various others, came to hold so much great art. Jacques-Louis David, Greuze, Gainsborough, van Eyck, Memling, Matisse (Dance), Tiepolo, Cezanne, Picasso (the lovely Young Girl on a Ball) and Bonnard are all here, though works by the likes of da Vinci and Titian that travelers to Russia may have seen and loved are not. The indifferent layout and font choices don't detract too much from the more than 350 full-color reproductions, which are clear if not ravishing. Neverov exhaustively relates the families he discusses to their home cities and those cities to their larger histories; as a reckoning of provenance, the book fully satisfies.
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