From the icons to Malevich: a cross-cultural exchange between Italy and Russia

40 masterworks from the Russian Museum of Saint Petersburg will be on show in Florence  at the Modern Art Gallery in Palazzo Pitti  up to April the 30th 2011.

A voyage into the soul of Russian art  from the XVI century “Cristo Pantocrator” to the various streams  of the XX century  art : the Suprematism of Kazimir Malevich, the Abstractionism of Wassili Kandinsky and the Analytical Art of Pavel Filonov.

The exhibition aims at witnessing the evolution of Russian painting as from the icons of the Byzantine tradition, synthesis of orthodox spirituality and pride of  tsars who, in the first half of the 18th century, broke thanks to Peter the Great the cultural isolation of Russian culture, thus opening it to the Modern Age.

Shortly,  Russian art turns from the east to the west, recovering itself from a still condition. It discovers new techniques, experimentations without missing the historical identity of its great past. Malevich, the great “suprematist”  in his “peasant cycle” explores a new pictorial representational art which  remains, however,  faithful to the  mystically solemn and stern faces of the icons.

Italy, in particular Florence, is a reference point. The Demidoffs, a wealthy and prestigious Russian family, are deeply rooted in the Florentine culture of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In fact the portrait of Anatolj Demidoff , first prince of San Donato, by Karl Brulliov is part of  Palazzo Pitti’s  permanent collection.  Brulliov, one of  the most significant painters of the 19th century,  was  a sympathizer of the Risorgimento. He died in Italy and was buried in the Piramide Cestia cemetery  in Rome. The Italian background becomes the subject of Brulliov’s paintings  such as “Pomeriggio Italiano”. He is able to translate into images the Mediterranean feeling without forgetting the characters of his Russian world  as in the portrait of Elisabeth Pavlova Saltikova, born Strogova   on the foreground of her Saint Petersburg winter garden or Alexei Tolstoy.

 The great Russian writer is a much loved topic of the 19th century Russian painting. He domineers  the exhibition  in the huge work of Ilya Repin, one of few painters admitted  to  Jasania Poliana. The two meter high  portrait represents  Tolstoy in the  open-air, in his peasant jacket, the “circassa”, barefoot. In spite of the rural image the noble attitude of  the count comes out.

The exhibition can be ideally divided into two sections.

 The first one focuses on the painters who in the first half of the 19th century worked in Italy.  Let’s remember:

Alexander Ivanov with his sketch of a young naked boy,  caught in an unconventional attitude,  just an ordinary  lad of the Roman countryside

Kiprenski with the portrait of Davidov, the proud hussar of the Napoleonic army

Scedrin  with a wonderful view of the Gulf of Naples , seen from Mergellina. He was adopted by Naples and later by  Sorrento for his eternal rest.

The second section  includes works which significantly contributed to contemporary art:  Serov” ,  Goncharova, Larionov and Bakst, collaborators of Diaghilev in the Russian Ballets and the great  Malevich and  Kandinsky.

The event represents an important, steady step for the spreading of an art which has so far unjustly been neglected. A  preface to the numerous initiatives that are going to characterize the  Florentine partnership between Italy and Russia along the whole 2011. Not to be missed. Take the opportunity of visiting this exhibition and exploring Florence and its superb monuments. For accommodations in the heart of Florence, we recommend our selection of apartments, and invite you to visit, a small elegant building within walking distance of the magnificent Ponte Vecchio.

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