The collection of French art in the Hermitage

Министерство образования  Российской Федерации

Санкт-Петербургский государственный инженерно-экономический университет

Институт туризма и гостиничного хозяйства

Курсовая работа

На тему «The collection of French art in the Hermitage»

по дисциплине «ИЭД»



5014 гр., 2 курса

Измакова Мария


Н.А. Лаковская

2002 год


The Hermitage is one of the greatest museums in the world. Put together throughout two centuries and a half, the Hermitage collections of works of art (over 3,000,000 items) present the development of the world culture and art from the Stone Age to the 20th century. Today the Museum is creating its digital self-portrait to be displayed around the world. The collection of Western European art is regarded as one of the finest in the world, and forms the nucleus of the Hermitage display. It occupies 120 rooms in the four museum buildings, and reflects all the stages in the development of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. The collection includes numerous works by outstanding masters from Italy, Spain, Holland, Flanders, France, England, Germany, and other Western European countries.

The collection of French art in the Hermitage is exceptionally rich and is the finest outside France among the museums of the world. More then forty rooms are used to house the displays of painting, sculpture and various items of applied art.















French Art: 15th-18th centuries.

The Hermitage collection of the 15th-18th century French painting is rich and variable. It enables us to trace the development of different styles and schools of that time.

Rooms 272 and 273. 15th-16th century art. At the end of the fifteenth century the separate feudal provinces were united into a single French state governed by the king with in the framework of this national state there developed conditions favourable to the growth of culture. In the  town of Limoges the production of enamels was revived after a long interval of time, not champleve as in the Middle Ages but painted. The very rich collection in the Hermitage allows us to trace the development of the style of fifteenth and sixteenth century French enamellers. Religious subjects were gradually replaced by mythological ones, medieval convention gave way to a realistic handling of themes, and grisaille (a painting executed entirely in monochrome, in a series of greys) superseded polychrome painting, thus making it possible to convey volume, both of figures and of space. The Renaissance artists turned from objects connected with religious worship to the creation of decorative secular articles, such as dishes, jugs and plates.

Room 273. In a large cabinet there are some faiences by Bernard Palissy (1510-1589), the inventor of a colored, transparent glazing which gave pottery additional beauty and durability. At one time his decorative dishes with relief designs of fish, snakes and crayfish were tremendously popular; this was called Palissy’s rustic pottery. In a case by the window there are exquisite sixteenth century faience vessels made in the small French town of Saint-Porchaire. They have been preserved up to the present day only as separate items, not as part of a set.

Room 274. Sixteenth century French court art; the so-called Fontainebleau school, developed under the significant influence of Italian Mannerism (the Italian Mannerists Primaticcio and Rosso worked in France and painted decorative murals in the royal palace at Fontainebleau). The Venus and Cupid relief was created by one of the leading  representatives of the Fontainebleau school, Jean Goujon (1510-1568).  The sculptor has skillfully worked into his composition, carved on an oval medallion, the graceful, somewhat elongated figure of the goddess presented in a fanciful pose. The distinctive originality of sixteenth century French  art is seen more clearly in portrait painting. Two fine examples of the latter are Portrait of a Man by an unknown painter and Portrait of a Young Man by Pierre Dumoustier.

Room 275-278. Early and mid-17th century art. During the seventeenth century a number of different trends developed in French art. A painting by Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Portrait of Anne of Austria as Minerva, is a typical example of court art at the time of Louis XIII. Of great importance in seventeenth century French art was the work of the Le Nain brothers, who portrayed peasant life with great sympathy and respect for the common man. The Dairywoman’s Family was painted by Louis (1593-1648), the most talented of the brothers. The figures of the peasants in it are full of dignity, and the compact group  stands out boldly against the greyist-silvery expanse of the masterfully painted landscape. Also in this room is A Visit to Grandmother, attributed to Mathieu Le Nain.

Room 279. The Hermitage has a very large and valuable collection of the works of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), the founder of Neoclassicism in seventeenth century French painting. In the center of Poussin’s vision stands Man, endowed with reason, will and spiritual beauty. Such are the heroes of his numeous paintings on biblical, mythological and literary themes the sefless Erminia  in Tranced and Erminia, the fearless Esther of Esther before Ahasuerus, and Moses, the wise tribal chief in Moses Striking the Rock. Poussin’s rationalism and philosophical outlook are revealed in his delightful Landscape with Polyphemus (1649). Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclops, is sitting on the top of a rock playing a pipe, with nymphs, satyrs and a ploughman tilling the land, all drinking in this song of nature. In his search for an ideal representation of nature Possin does not paint from life, but builds up his from separate details observed in nature.

Room 280. Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) was a leading exponent of the classical landscape. Composed according to the rules of Classicism, Claude’s canvases are saturated with light, which lends them a particular emotional quality. The famous series The Four Time of the Day (Morning, Noon, Evening and Night) reflects the artist’s interest in light, which was something new for French art. 

Room 281. late 17th century art. The official art of France during the golden age of the absolute monarchy served the task of glorifying Louis XIV. Artistic life was regulated by the Academy, at the head of which was the premier peintre to the king, Charles Lebrun (1619-1690), and after him Pierre Mignard (1612-1695). Mignard’s work is represented by the monumental Magnanimily of Alexander the Great . After his victory over the Persian emperor Darius, Alexander enters his tent where he encounters the family of the vanquished emperor begging for mercy. With a gesture of the hand the victor grants the captives their lives. The choice of subject was not fortuitous; in the figure of Alexander is glorified le roi soleil, Louis XIV. If Mignard extolled the king in the figure of the great general, the sculptor Francois Girardon (1628-1715) portrayed him as Roman emperor. Girardon’s small bronze model for the unpreserved equestrian statue presents the king in the attire of an ancient Roman soldier and in a wig, such as worn in the seventeenth century.

In room 282 there is a unique collection of seventeenth and eighteenth century Western European silver, for the most part French.

Rooms 290-297 contain items of French applied art, including furniture, Gobilin tapestries, faience, bronze, and porcelain. This collection is known throughout the world on account of its exceptional wealth.

Room 283. this exhibition introduces the visitor to the French portrait painting of the second half of the seventeenth century. The eminent portrait painter Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743) is represented by The  Portrait of a Scholar.

The two ebony cupboards, decorated with bronze and tortoise-shell and used for keeping medals in, were made in the workshop of Andre-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), a well-known furniture-maker. An original Boulle cupboard can be seen in room 293.

Room 284-289. 18th century art. This room contains several pieces by one of France’s most eminent artists, Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) who, in his search for a realist approach, broke with hidebound academic convention. In his small paintings The Hardships of War and The Recreations of War  Watteau portrayed the everyday life of a soldier rather than ostentatious battle scenes as his predecessors had done. The Savoyard with a Marmot (1716), a picture of a simple-hearted young traveling musician, also confirms Watteau’s interest in the simple phenomena of life. The blue expanse of the clear, fresh sky, the buildings of the small town, and the silhouettes of the bare trees make up a landscape in which the glowing colours of autumn are dominant. Watteau became famous as a painter of so-called fetes galantes. An example of this type of painting is the Embarrassing Proposal, painted about 1716. Some member s of fashionable society are amusing themselves chatting in the shade of the gossamery foliage; the casually graceful postures of the young  ladies and their admirers convey subtle, almost imperceptible shades of emotion. Exquisite colouring and delicate execution distinguish one of the artist’s masterpieces, a small painting A Capricious Woman, in which the spectator encounters the same world of superficial feelings.

The exhibition in room 285 and 286 presents examples of Rococo court art whose only raison d’etre, according to the art remark of a contemporary, was to please. Venuses, cupids, shepherd boys and shepherd girls are the central figures of the many works of Francois Boucher (1703-1770), a court painter of Louis XV. Boucher’s Pastoral Scene, The Triumph of Venus and The Toilet of Venus, confined in their colours to attractive pinks and blues, are very typical of Rococo art, of which he was a distinguished exponent.

In room 285 particular mention should be made of the work of Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716-1791), who executed the equestrian statue of Peter the Great (“Bronze Horseman”) in St Petersburg. His Cupid, Flora and Winter, in which elegance is combined with the true-to-life quality of the figures, are evidence of the sculptor’s faithful adherence to realist traditions. In a large cabinet by the window, among some Sevres porcelains, are the unglazed white porcelain (biscuit) statuettes Cupid, Psyche and Woman Bathing, made from models of Falconet.

Room 286 contains a number of portraits by Jean-Marc Nattier and Louis Tocque, painters who at one time enjoyed considerable popularity. Falconet’s Winter is distinguished from his earlier works its greater severity of style; this is related to the growing influence of Classicism in French art during the last thirty years of the eighteenth century.

Room 287. Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699-1779) was a leading representative of the realist movement. His Washerwoman and Grace before Meat (1744) take the onlooker into the sphere of activities and everyday problems and chores of a poor French family. Chardin was an outstanding painter of still life, which was unknown to French aristocratic art as an independent genre. The appeal of the Still Life with the Attributes of the Arts, lies in the austere conception of the composition and the subtle, skilful use of colour.

The center of the room is occupied by the marble statue of the great man of the Enlightenment, Voltaire (1781), created by the sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828). The eighty-four-year-old Voltaire sat for him in 1778, but the May of that year the great man was dead. With ruthless veracity the hand of the sculptor portrayed the aged, weak body, the hands disfigured by sickness, the crooked spine and toothless mouth. But upon the face of Voltaire, with its high brow, ironic smile and the poignant look of the sharp eyes, is the seal of an immortal intellect and undying energy. The philosopher, seated in an armchair, is dressed in a garment which reminds us of the ancient toga, and upon his head he wears an ancient fillet.

Also of interest are the portrait busts of Diderot and Falconet carved in marble by Marie-Anne Collot (1748-1821). Collot came with her teacher Falconet to Russia, where he took part in the work on the equestrian statue of Peter the Great. It wsa from her model that the head of Peter was made.

Room 288. The painting Paralytic Helped by His Children, one of the most famous canvases by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805), was considered to be an affirmation of bourgeois virtue and a protest against the depravity of the  aristocracy and the frivolity of Rococo art. Another example of this type of moralizing scene is his painting Widow Visiting the Cure. Greuze’s artistic merit is seen fully in such works as The Spoilt Child, Girl with a Doll and Young Man in a Hat.

Three paintings - The Stolen Kiss, The Farmer’s Children and The Lost Forfeit, or the Captured Kiss - illustrate the work of the fine painter of the second half of the eighteenth century Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806). These are also some paintings by the famous landscape painter Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-1789).

Room 289. In the White Room (designed by Briullov, 1838) there are paintings, sculptures and items of applied art from the  last thirty years of the eighteenth century. During these years Hubert Robert (1733-1808) enjoyed great popularity; ancient ruins were the favourite theme of his decorative landscapes.

French Art: 18th-20th centuries.


French painting of the 19th to early 20th century is represented by approximately 850 items. Chronologically, this section begins with works by artists from the late 18th and early 19th century, whose contributions to the history of art vary enormously, but whose works embody the artistic aspirations of the age: Lethiere, Lefebre, Caraffe, C.Vernet, Girodet, P.Chauvin, artists who were very popular during the time of the Empire such as Guerin, F.Gerard and others.


Room 314. A new chapter in French history was opened in 1789 when the feudal Bourbon monarchy collapsed. The artistic movement which expressed the revolutionary aspirations of the progressive factions of French society was Neoclassicism. The Death of Coto of Utica by Guillaume Lethiere (1760-1832) gives us some us some idea of the distinctive features of this movement. Cato, a confirmed Republican, commits suicide upon hearing of the establishment of Caesar’s dictatorship; the figure of the hero, who preferred death to the loss of freedom, was consonant with the aspirations of the time.

During the First Empire artist began to choose idyllic or allegorical themes. Guerin’s paintings Morpheus and Iris and Sapho and two sculptures, Chaudet’s Cypress and Canova’s Dancer, illustrate the fundamental changes in Neoclassical art.

In the same room is Antoine Gros’s (1771-1835) Napoleon upon the Bridge at Arcole. This painting is based upon the actual event at the time of the Italian campaign of 1797; during the battle of Arcole Bonaparte, a young general at that time, was the first to rush forward and, leading his men, began the assault on the bridge. In Gros’s handling the figure of Napoleon has lost the rhetorical quality of Lethiere’s hero, it contains a greater feeling of vitality, greater energy, those qualities which later received expression in the paintings of the Romantics.

Room 332. The leading figure in French Neoclassicism was Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). From his late canvas Sappho and Phaon (1809) it is evident that at the time of the Empire no traces remained of the revolutionary spirit of the former member of the National Convention, the creator of the Death of Marat.

Room 332. In the Portrait of Josephine (Napoleon’s first wife) Francois Gerard (1770-1837) presents a new type of formal portrait, in which he skillfully combines the austerity of a classical composition with a simple and unaffected rendering of the appearance of his model. One of the first artists to portray the everyday life of the bourgeois society of his time was Louis Boilly, who painted the small picture A Game of Billiards.

Jean-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), a staunch adherent of Classicism and an ardent admirer of antiquity and Raphael, was among the most subtle and complex artists of the mid-nineteenth century. The only painting by him in the Hermitage is the portrait of the Russian diplomat Count Guryev, painted in 1821 and notable for the austere formal arrangement and the strength and assurance of line.

Room 329. Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863), the major painter of the Romantic movement, is represented in the Hermitage by two late works. Lion Hunt in Morocco (1854) and Arab Saddling His Horse (1855). One glance at these paintings is sufficient for an understanding of the great difference between them and the paintings produced by the artists of the Classical school. Painted in bright, fresh colours, Delacroix’s canvases are filled with the ardent breath of life, an a sense of the grandeur of nature.

 One of the representatives of the Romantic movement in sculpture is the animalist Antoine Barye (1796-1875), the creator of the bronze groups A Lion and a Snake and A Panther and an Antelope. Barye imbues his works with great expressiveness, revealing in them the harsh laws of the animal kingdom.

Room 328, 325, 324 and 322. In the 1830s a realist trend appeared in French painting, heralded by the Barbizon school of landscape painters. This name was given to a group of artists who had settled in the village of Barbizon near Paris, where they faithfully reproduced in their paintings their native countryside. There is a large collection of landscapes of the Barbizon school in the Hermitage. Its leading figure, Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867), showed, even in one of his early works, View in the Vicinity of Granville, that the simple, visually unprepossessing

Countryside of Normandy could become a source of inspiration. Close to Rousseau in their perception of nature are Jules Dupre, Charles Francois Daubigny, Diaz de la Pena, Charles Jacque and Constant Troyon.


Room 321. An important place in the history of French  landscape painting belongs to Camille Corot (1796-1875). A profound, subtle understanding of nature connected him with the Barbizon painters, but unlike  them Corot did not strive for an accurate reproduction of landscape. His poetic landscapes are echoes of the artist’s own experiences. “If you are really moved,” said Corot, “the sincerity of your feelings will be felt by others.”

The work of the leading painters of the realist movement , Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) and Gustav Courbert (1819-1877), developed in the 1850s and ‘60s. Millet  was the first  among his contemporaries to depict French village life, with what was then unusual degree  of profundity and veracity. The Hermitage possesses only one of his paintings, Peasant Women Carrying Firewood.

Courbert, an active figure in the Paris Commune, was the major representative of the realist movement in painting and ardently defended the right of the artist to portray contemporary life. The only Courbert in the Hermitage is the Landscape with a Dead Horse which, because of its poor state of preservation, does not give us any real idea of his skill as an artist. The choice of theme in this painting represents a challenge to the “official” art, because Courbert maintains here that the artist should be concerned with life in all its diversity.

Room 320. Towards the 1870s Impressionism reached its peak in France, the movement having originated as a protest against the rigid convention which prevailed in official art. The Impressionists emerged as heirs to the realist traditions and enriched painting with their fresh, joyful colours, their representation of light, and exquisite rendering of atmosphere. They drew only from life capturing the spontaneity and naturalness of the first visual impression. In conveying the wealth of colour in the real around them Impressionists attempted to catch and to record its face, forever changing under the play of light.

Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) embodies the principles and methods of Impressionism in portrait painting. Renoir did not attempt to reveal in his portraits intricate feelings or emotions; he caught the spontaneous movement, the half-smile, the gentle reverie of his model. Unaffected animation and simplicity characterize his Girl with a Fan and Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary. Renoir’s colours are notable for their freshness, the richness of hues, and the extremely delicate transition from one tone to the next.

The work of Edgar Degas (1834-1917) is represented by some pastels-Woman Combing Her Hair, After the Bath, Dancers and Woman at Her Toilet.


Room 319. One of the leading Impressionist painters was Claude Monet (1840-1926), whose picture Impression: Sunrise, exhibited in Paris in 1874, gave the name to the whole movement. An early work of his, Lady in the Garden (1867), reflects the first success of the new manner of painting. Abandoning black and subdued tones, Monet painted the shade in color depending on the surrounding milieu. The woman’s white dress in the shade of the parasol, for example, acquires a bluish hue against the background of the green foliage and the blue sky. In the landscape Pond at Montgeron (1876-77) the countryside is filled with  the subtle, barely perceptible movement of currents of moist  air, in which the outlines of things melt into nothing. Gradually the rendering of light and air becomes Monet’s main them and he portrays one and the same subject several time in different lights, stripping things of their of their materiality.

Room 318. Paris street life with its characteristic bustle, commotion and endless flow of traffic and pedestrians was captured by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) in his paintings The Boulevard Montmartre  in Paris and La Place du Theatre-Francais in Paris.

The eleven paintings by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)make it possible to observe the main stages in the development of the artist’s work. Unlike the Impressionists Cezanne tried to reveal the materiality and plasticity of whaterver he deplicted. Typical in this way is the landscape Banks of the Marne (1888), in which he painted a tranquil scene from nature, as through trying to immortalize on canvas her immutable qualities. Still-life painting was Cezanne’s favourite genre. His still lifes are simple: a wooden table, two or three faience vessels, some fruit, all these objects possessing some special distinctive corporeity peculiar to Cezanne. To preserve their “eternal” qualities-weight and volume-Cezanne made the form geometric, building it up with thick strokes of bright green, orange and blue.

Rooms 317 and 316 contain examples of the work of the Post-Impressionist painters Van Gogh and Gauguin.

Room 317. The Hermitage has four paintings by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890): View of the Arles, Ladies of Arles (Memory of the Garden at Etten), Bushes, and Cottages with Thached Roofs, painted during the last years of the artist’s life. Cottages with Thatched Roofs (1890) is imbued with the feeling of anxiety which overcame him on seeing the poor dwellings, clinging to the slope of the hill. Van Gogh’s characteristic dramatic tension is felt in the vividness of the colours, the restless rhythm of the thick, energetic brush-strokes, and the expressiveness of line.

Displayed in the same room are Tropical Forest, The Chopin Memorial in the Luxemburg Gardens and View to the Left of the Gate of Vanves by Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), usually referred to as a Primitive.

Room 316. The fifteen paintings in the Hermitage by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) belong to his so-called Tahiyian period. In his pictures painted in the tropics Gauguin extols a world untouched by “civilization” and full of the exotic, where people live in harmony  with nature.  Gauguin’s paintings are decorative, the areas of local colours lie on the canvas in motionless patches, and the contours of the figures and objects-sometimes smooth and fluid, sometimes exquisitely delicate-give the picture the semblance of a coloured pattern (Tahitian Pastorals, Woman Holding a Fruit, Miraculous Source, The Idol, etc.)

Room 343-345. The thirty-seven pictures by Henry Matisse (1869-1954), painted between 1900 and 1913 , make it possible to illustrate the special features of the work of one of the leading twentieth century French artists. The Family Group, Red Room and other of Matisse’s works are striking in their decorative quality and their saturated colours. Rejecting a chiaroscuro  treatment, Matisse simplifies and schematizes his figures and objects, building up his composition on the contrasting juxtaposition of large areas of pure colour. The radiant colourfulness of Matisse’s canvases produces a feeling of joy and gaiety.

Room 346 and 347. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was an eminent French progressive, the winner of the International Peace Prize and of the International Lenin Prize “for the Strengthening of Peace between Nations”. The development of Picasso as an artist was unusually complex and contradictory. The Hermitage collection, consisting of thirty-seven works, helps illustrate the early stages of this development. In one of the best paintings of his early period, Woman Drinking Absinth (1901), Picasso created a type that evokes a deep sense of tragedy. The Portrait of Soler and The Visit (Two Sisters) belong to the so-called Blue Period (1901-1904); his Pink Period (1905-1906) is represented by a gouache drawing, Boy with a Dog.

Between 1906 and 1907 Picasso was absorbed with analysis of form and reduced everything to a simplified volume similar to a cube, a sphere or a cylinder. He became one of the founder of a new tendency in art, Cubism,  typical of which are such works as Woman with a Fan, Three Women, Pitcher and Bowl and others. After this Picasso arrived at a complete break-up of form; he destroyed volume and created free compositions from planes and lines.

Rooms 348 and 349. Among the paintings of early twentieth century artist are works by Andre Derain (1880-1954) – The Grove, The Lake and Harbour in Provence; Maurice Vlaminck (1876-1958) – A View of the Seine; Jean-Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) – A Room and Children; Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) – Early Spring and A Corner of Paris; Louis Valtat (1869-1952) – Pleasure Party in the Garden; Maurice Denis (1870-1943) – Spring Landscape with Figures.

Room 350 contains a large collection of pictures by the fine landscape painter Albert Marquet (1875-1947),whose greatest love was Paris and who painted her streets and squares, quays and bridges over the Seine. The colours in his landscapes are always true to life and objects are represented in a very generalized way.

Displayed in the same room are landscapes Leopold Survage (1879-1968) and Andre Fougeron (born 1913). The Bridge was painted by the latter in 1964. Glowing colours and great vitality distinguish  the Red Dancer and Lady in a Black Hat by Cornelius Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968).

In room 350 are also shown paintings by Fernand Leger (1881-1955), - Carte postale and Composition.

The Hermitage exhibition of French art also includes marble sculptures by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and bronzes by Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)


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