The grandeur of Tsarist Russia comes to Madrid


Culture vultures seeking some festive cheer should take a short trip to Madrid, currently home to three major temporary art exhibitions, writes author Peter Fieldman from the Spanish capital.

THE most important event is ‘The Hermitage in the Prado’ exhibition which has the privilege of being the largest ever exhibition of works ever to be allowed outside the Russian museum.


The Hermitage museum incorporating the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is one of the world’s largest museums housing a collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts built up over two centuries by the reigning Tsars between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The neo-classical Palace was built in the 17TH century by Peter the Great on the banks of the river Neva in the heart of Saint Petersburg. French and Italian architects were appointed to design the city with a network of canals modelled on Paris and Amsterdam.

The interior of the palace with the stunning ceremonial staircase, baroque state rooms and vast galleries and halls are a legacy to the grandeur of Tsarist Russia.

Peter the Great travelled throughout Europe to collect paintings, sculptures, jewellery and ornaments and during the 18th century his granddaughter Catherine 11, continued to expand both the city and the art collection commissioning works from Western European artists as well as adding gold ornaments and jewellery from the Eurasian nomadic Scythian tribes, Greek goldsmiths and diplomatic gifts from India and Asia.

The exhibition comprises 179 pieces from this magnificent collection including paintings, drawings, sculptures and exquisite jewellery and ornaments that cover more than 2,500 years from the 5th century BC to the 20th century.

The paintings on display feature rarely seen works by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Ribera, El Greco, Tiziano, Rubens, Ingres, Watteau, Picasso, Monet, Matisse and Renoir. Among the sculptures are Houdon’s superb bust of Voltaire, Canova’s The penitent Magdalen, and Rodin’s Eternal Spring.


Distinct Italian flavour at the Thyssen ‘ARCHITECTURAL PAINTING’ is the name chosen by The Thyssen Bornemisza museum and Caja Madrid Foundation for their exhibition with a distinct Italian flavour comprising 144 works from the renaissance period to the eighteenth century.

The paintings from the 14th to the 17th century are housed in the main museum building, while the 18th century works are on display in the Casa de la Alhajas in the Plaza San Martin. Visitors are taken on an historical tour through the centuries as urban development across Europe gave artists the scope to develop their individual style.

The Renaissance art features buildings as a background for compositions progressing to the use of perspective, space and geometry. The “cappricios” genre allowed artists scope to express their imagination with biblical scenes or historical views with ruins, while decorative paintings of classical monuments with columns, terraces, vast interiors and imposing views become popular with buyers to demonstrate their power and prestige. Works by Cotignola, Gentile Bellini, Van Valckenborch, Poussin, Lorrain, de Vries, and Carpaccio illustrate the different themes. Flemish artists are given credit for having introduced the genre of landscape painting in the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century the “vedutisti” artists such as Van Wittel, Canaletto, Bellotto, Joli, Panini and Guardi, achieved recognition through bringing city views to life as the main subject matter.

Called “The Grand Tour” the second part of the exhibition is dedicated to the works of these artists principally in Rome, Venice, Naples and Florence.

Delacroix restrospective THE Caixa Forum art gallery in conjunction with the Paris Louvre is showing a major retrospective of the works of Eugene Delacroix.

It is the most complete presentation of the French artist’s works since the centenary exhibition in the Louvre in 1963.

A leading figure in the Romantic movement, Delacroix brought light, colour, movement, passion and emotion to dramatise his works. The influence of Rubins was crucial to the development of his style which was subsequently to give impetus to the impressionist movement.

He also illustrated political events, some controversial, such as The Massacre at Chios or Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi –both displayed – giving him a reputation as a revolutionary figure. His journeys to Greece, Spain and especially Morocco and Algeria provided him with exotic locations to depict a different world such as the interior scene, Women of Algiers in their apartment. Although his large scale works could not be removed from the Louvre, the exhibition displays a sketch of one of his major historical works, The Death of Sardanapalus inspired by one of Byron’s plays.

The Caixa Forum is a lesser known addition to Madrid’s cultural scene. Out of an obsolete red brick power station, Swiss architects Herzog and Meuron have created an imaginative and highly efficient building.

It opened in 2008 as a new avant-garde art gallery with free public access and can feature several different exhibitions simultaneously. The Prado museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza museum and Caixa Forum are within walking distance from each other, located within Madrid’s renowned art triangle overlooking the Paseo del Prado and are well connected by bus and metro transport.

The Hermitage in the Prado: Through March 25, 2012, Architectural Painting at the Thyssen Bornemisza: Through January 22, 2012 Delacroix at the Caixa Forum: Through 15 January 2012 


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