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Opera Prelude: Paris and the Russian avant-garde

With Dr Natalia Murray

Venue: Caversham Room at Cadogan Hall

With Dr Natalia Murray, Maria Levandovskaya (piano) and Ed Ballard (baritone).

Inspired by the recent exhibition Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection, which attracted over 1.3 million visitors in just four months and took place at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, Dr Natalia Murray will explore the fascinating interplay that existed between French and Russian art in the first two decades of the 20th century.

Although modern French art was undoubtedly a touchstone throughout the period, the variety of ways in which so many Russian artists, both men and women, succeeded in fusing it with the extraordinary wealth of their own cultural heritage, resulted in a wonderful flowering which changed the course of modern art. Many Russian avant-garde artists, including Mark Chagall, Petr Konchalovsky, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov had lived and studied in Paris. Others had readily absorbed the works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso and Le Fauconnier, brought to Russia by the merchants and collectors Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin; famous for buying art out of artist’s studios and supposedly ‘‘the only man ever to have owned more Picassos than Picasso himself!”

Sergei Shchukin (1854-1936) expended his fortune on French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modern Art. Within two decades, he had collected 275 works of art but many of his visitors reacted with bafflement to his purchases. Impressionist works adorned the music room of his mansion in Moscow where Rachmaninov and Shaliapin performed at his soirees. One of the most favourite of Shchukin`s composers was Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872 – 1915) who was influenced in his early life by Chopin and considered to be one of the most innovative and most controversial of early modern composers. His music was almost ignored outside Russia until recent times. We will have the chance to hear one of his pieces played by Maria Levandovskaya, our Director of Russian programming.

Art flowed from Paris to Moscow and artists travelled from Moscow to Paris. Dr Murray will examine the influence of the French modern art on Russian artists who fell under its spell at home or in Paris, where they worked alongside each other in the famous artists’ residence in Montparnasse, ‘La Ruche’, or where they studied at the Académie Julian or at Marie Vassilieff’s Russian Art Academy. To ensure a music-filled morning, Maria will be accompanied by Ed Ballard (baritone) and together they will perform songs in French by Stravinsky, composed after his first visit to Paris, they will also perform other numbers from Debussy and Rachmaninov.

Dr Natalia Murray was born in St Petersburg where she gained BA and MA in Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts before taking the PhD course at the Hermitage Museum (conducting research on the XVII century Dutch paintings and British reproductive mezzotint engravings of XVII-XIX centuries, and their connection with the development of artistic tastes in Britain). In 2015 she has been awarded PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In 2012 she wrote a book The Unsung Hero of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Life and Times of Nikolay Punin (Leiden-Boston: Brill Academic, 2012).

At present she is working as a visiting lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art and as a head of education and public programmes at GRAD (Gallery for Russian Art and Design). She is also curating a major exhibition Revolution. Russian Art. 1917-1932 which will take place at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2017, and editing her next book on post-revolutionary festivals in Petrograd. Natalia is also trustee of the Russian Avant-Garde Research Project – a UK-based charity which shares one of her aspirations to reduce the number of fakes on the Russian art market.

Part of Opera Prelude Lecture Series 2018-19

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Concert Duration:
2 hours

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