The exceptional Morozov collection, a unique exhibition worth seeing
It is unlikely to be assembled again and promises to be the bestselling exhibition that will wow the art world this fall in Paris: The Morozov Collection, Icons of Modern Art, opened at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.
A year after the original inauguration date – which had to be postponed three times due to Covid restrictions – this extraordinary spectacle devoted to French and Russian icons of modern art and their Russian collectors is possible thanks to a confluence important factors starting with the love of art but also important injections of money, power and politics.
The exhibition, presented for the first time outside Russia and which is expected to be one of the flagship exhibitions of the year, includes some 300 Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Expressionist masterpieces brought together at the turn of the 20th century by the very rich Russian brothers Mikhail. and Ivan Morozov, pioneers of Western art, before being swept away by the Russian Revolution.
Iconic works of incalculable value
Organized in partnership with the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, that of Moscow Pushkin National Museum of Fine Arts and the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Morozov Collection is the second in the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s “Icons of Modern Art” series dedicated to major Russian collectors, and follows the Sergei Shchukin 2016 exhibition which attracted a record 1.3 million visitors.
The flagship exhibition could, according to Vanity Show, established “records in the cultural world: that of a determination to brave the Covid pandemic, diplomatic tensions, extremely complicated logistics to transport to Paris these paintings which are among the most beautiful of their time and have today hui an incalculable value “.
Love of art, money and politics
Installed in each gallery of the breathtaking Fondation Louis Vuitton building designed by Frank Gehry, the Morozov collection brings together a selection of rarely seen works by renowned French artists, including Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec , Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gaugin, Vincent Van Gogh, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain, Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel and alongside Russian masters including Ilya Repin, Mikhail Vrubel, Konstantin Korovin, Aleksandr Golovin, Valentin Serov, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, Kazimir Malevich, Ilya Mashkov, Pyotr Konchalovsky, Piotre Utkine and Martiros Saryan.
The exhibition includes the music room of the Moscow mansion of Ivan Morosov, for the first time reproduced outside the Hermitage Museum, in a special seven-panel installation commissioned by Ivan Morozov in 1907 from Maurice Denis on the theme of The story of Psyche, and four sculptures by Aristide Maillol “offering a rare window on the life of the eminent collection”, explain the organizers.
The Morozov Collection, considered one of the most beautiful in the world, was produced with the help of the most important art dealers of the time and thanks to the immense Morozov fortune – and to the taste of the brothers for the avant-garde.
Without doubt, the exhibition is also a tribute to the financial power of the French LVMH Group which enabled a private actor to meet the challenges of such an exceptional exhibition.
Almost lost because of war and revolution
“After the First World War and the October Revolution, the Morozov collection suffered the same fate as that of Sergueï Chtchoukine ”, explains Bernard Arnauld, President of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, in the preface to the exhibition catalog. “From 1918, they were seized, nationalized and then dismantled by the Bolshevik regime.
They were almost lost. However, from the 1930s they found their place in the collections of the Hermitage Museum, the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery.
For nearly a century, these masterpieces shuttled between Moscow and St. Petersburg until they were brought together for this world premiere.
The making of the collection
Mikhail and Ivan Morozov were born in 1870 and 1871 into a Muscovite family of textile manufacturers, yet of serf origin.
According to Anne Baldassari, curator of the exhibition, they could owe their artistic acuity to their mother who gave them drawing lessons by Russian artists from an early age.
When he was only 20 years old, Mikhaïl acquired in Paris his first paintings by Van Gogh and Gauguin, not yet famous. When he died of a heart attack at the age of 33, he had already collected 39 remarkable works by masters including Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Degas.
Ivan, who then took over the family business – leaving behind his vocation as a painter – added French Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Nabis (young French artists moving to more abstract art at the end of the 19th century) and fauvists in the collection.
At the same time, he got closer to Russian artists of his generation who advised him on his acquisitions and brought their own masterpieces to his collection.
In the introduction to the catalog of the Morozov Collection, curator Baldassari explains that for Ivan Morozov there was “an emotional and aesthetic shock that definitively transformed his vision, making him a militant modernist” during his visit to the Salon d. Autumn in Paris in 19o7 and saw the work of Cézanne, which “made the scales fall from his eyes”.
“He became a convinced Cezannist, acquiring 18 exceptional paintings which he hung in a“ secret ”office next to his private apartments. From that decisive day, his purchases have continued to increase and their quality has become irreproachable.
Between 1904 and 1914, he bought 240 works by French artists while his collection of Russian art, begun in 1891, amounted to 430 pieces.
Picasso fans will be happy to see the three pieces included in the exhibition which, according to Baldassari, are “masterpieces and markers of Picasso’s work from key moments in the development of his career. “.
A tortuous story
But as France 24 writes: “Everything collapsed with the communist revolution of 1917 in Russia. Ivan was reduced to being an “assistant curator” of his own collection as his house became a state museum. “
In 1918, the Morozov manufacturing company, whose real estate value was estimated at 26 million rubles, was taken over by the state and later in the year the collection of works of art was nationalized by official decree.
In the summer of 1919, Ivan and his family secretly crossed the Finnish border, and then emigrated to Switzerland.
When the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941, the paintings were sent to be hidden in the Ural Mountains, where they remained fairly well preserved in temperatures that often fell to -40 degrees.
It was not until the 1950s that the Soviet government decided to redistribute them between the Hermitage, Tretyakov and Pushkin museums.
Although separate, the collection, made up of 460 Russian and 240 French works of art, has been preserved intact.
The Morozov Collection: Icons Of Modern Art will be on display at the Louis Vuitton Foundation until February 22, 2022.