Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition
I'm not sure who to credit for this image but it seems to be a Photoshopped interpretation of Viktor Hartmann's "The Great Gate of Kiev" (1874). It was an exhibition of Hartmann's paintings that inspired Mussorgsky to write “Pictures at an Exhibition” later that year.

The current sparring between London and Moscow (I wrote this originally in 2008 and it's worse now!) is like a fight between two casts in an old opera-house where the English think they are doing Andrew Lloyd-Webber and the Russians want to do something else, something Russian, but what? Tolstoy's War and Peace? Do we have to go back to before the October Revolution of 1917?

First, take note of an exhibition mounted in early 2008 at London's Royal Academy, titled "From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925." A brouhaha developed over whether some of the paintings would be seized as Nazi war loot, but the bigger issue was: why did the English want to see the Matisses and Renoirs rather than the famous Russian paintings? Another snub! Ironic really, after oil-rich Russians made modern Russian art the hottest item in the London auction scene before the invasion of Ukraine.

The masterpieces below were not in that exhibition but they afford clues to the great Russian operas and ballets from 100 years ago, before the Soviet era interrupted things, when the issue was (as it has always been) whether to look West, or into the Russian heartland, or East to the Orient and China. About Russia's future direction, it's all there in the paintings. Are you an optimist or a pessimist, an agnostic or a cynic? Study these four paintings then choose your favorite by clicking on it:


Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Easter Procession in the Region of Kursk (1880-83) 


Nicholas Roerich: Guests from Overseas (1901)


Mikhail Vrubel: Demon Seated in a Garden (1890)


Viktor Vasnetsov: The Flying Carpet (1880)