- Written by John Cairncross Saturday, 28 January 2012 - Art Knowledge News
Moscow.- The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art is proud to present "William Blake and British Visionary Art" on view at the museum from November 29th through February 19th 2012. This is the first major exhibition to present Blake’s visual art in Russia as well as being the first exhibition to explore Blake and his legacy. The exhibition is a collaborative project between the Tate and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art in partnership with the British Council.Drawn mainly from Tate’s Collection alongside works generously lent from other British collections, the exhibition consists of approximately 110 of Blake's works, including many of his best known images such as The Ghost of a Flea c.1819-20. It also includes the recently discovered hand-coloured etchings from the major prophetic work The First Book of Urizen 1796 c.1818.
Although mainly overlooked during his lifetime, Blake's impact and influence on later generations of artists, writers and musicians has been enormous. His visionary ideas, and his ability to convey these in both poetry and painting, remain a major reference point in British culture today and this show aims to reveal his remarkable art and its visual legacy to a Russian audience. The expression of spiritual values through bodily form is the hallmark of Blake’s visionary art and came to influence both the Symbolist art of the later nineteenth century and the neo-romantic revival of the 1930s. Many of the artists associated with these movements saw Blake as a pioneer in imagining infinite possibilities for sensory and spiritual experience. His work has been a reference point for artists nationally and internationally and this exhibition will include over twenty works by British artists who have been influenced by Blake including Samuel Palmer, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Piper and Francis Bacon.
As part of the Blake in Russia project a new Russian translation of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience has been jointly published by the British Council and the State Library of Foreign Literature. Blake was not so much a poet, printmaker and artist but rather that his chosen form allowed all these things to come together on one page. His illustrations were never set along aside the poems, and the poems were not typeset. Rather he actually made prints of his poems and pictures together. This is the first time that Blake’s illustrations have ever been published alongside his poetry in Russia.
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is the largest museum of European art in Moscow, located in Volkhonka street, just opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The museum's name is misleading, as it has nothing to do with the famous Russian poet. It was founded by professor Ivan Tsvetaev (father of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva). Tsvetaev persuaded the millionaire and philanthropist Yuriy Nechaev-Maltsov and the fashionable architect Roman Klein of the urgent need to give Moscow a fine arts museum. The museum building was designed by Roman Klein and Vladimir Shukhov and financed primarily by Yury Nechaev-Maltsov. Construction work began in 1898 and continued till 1912. Ivan Rerberg headed structural engineering effort on the museum site for 12 years, till 1909. Tsvetaev's dream was realised in May 1912, when the museum opened its doors to the public. The museum was originally named after Alexander III, although the government provided only 200,000 rubles toward its construction, in comparison with over 2 million from Nechaev-Maltsev. Its first exhibits were copies of ancient statuary, thought indispensable for the education of art students. The only genuinely ancient items - Moscow Mathematical Papyrus and Story of Wenamun - had been contributed by Vladimir Golenishchev three years earlier.
After the Russian capital was moved to Moscow in 1918, the Soviet government decided to transfer thousands of works from St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum to the new capital. The entire collection of Western art from the Museum Roumjantsev was added too. These paintings formed a nucleus of the Pushkin museum's collections of Western art. But the most important paintings were added later from the State Museum of New Western Art. These comprised Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork, including top works by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Georges Dufrénoy and Henri Matisse. Among them Van Goghs "Le Vigne Rouge" apparently the only painting sold during the artist's lifetime. In 1937, Pushkin's name was appended to the museum, because the Soviet Union marked the centenary of the poet's death that year. The Pushkin Museum is still a main depositary of Troy's fabulous gold looted from Troy by the German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann and taken by the Soviet Army (Red Army) from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The International musical festival Svyatoslav Richter's December nights has been held in the Pushkin museum since 1981. Visit the museum's website at ... http://www.museum.ru/M296