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World Art


Art Museum’s collection of European painting increased round those first 12 works transferred from Museum of Rădăuţi, Romania in 1945: portraits and landscapes of Romanian painters at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, as well as portraits of Franz Joseph the First, Emperor of Austro-Hungary and Empress Elisabeth, done by Spanish artist Frederico Ruiz and dated with 1859. Same year 18 paintings also entered from Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, their authors being Luini Bernardino, Aer van der Neer, Pierre Gobert, and Jacob Jordaens.

The permanent world-art exhibition from Museum’s collection numbers more than 100 paintings and sculptures dating from the end of the 16th until the beginning of the 20th century and allows following the main stages of fine-arts evolution during the epoch.

The Renaissance was a specific time of world culture history, characterised by burst of intellect as response to moral, spiritual and religious crisis. Art reflects and harmonises the relation between Man and Nature; Man for himself is the source of greatness and dignity, “perfect creature”, unbridled in opportunities. Rebirth of ancient cultural traditions laid foundation to the new concept in art: direct perception of nature along with strict enforcement of perspective, optic, anatomy and colour principles. Realism is paramount in fine arts, mainly by depicting human body. The Renaissance by this milestone was the epoch of great creators: Alberti, Brunelleschi, Bramante – in architecture; Donatello, Michelangelo, Verrocchio – in sculpture, Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Botticelli, Tiziano, Veronese, Dürer, Holbein – in painting.

Works exhibited here of Renaissance Italian masters – St Family with John the Baptist, Flight to Egypt and St Catherine of Alexandria by Luini Bernardino reflect new iconography with “adaptation” of biblical subjects to humanist concept. In turn the works Landscape with John the Baptist preaching, St Hieronymus, Venus in the Forgery of Volcano get visitors acquainted with novelties of Dutch and Flemish artists: ability to notice and paint any object in light, express the depth or softness of shadows, show with help of light presence, volume and weight of images. For Italian artists adventure started with discovery of perspective, for the Flemish with use of oils and dexterity to put attentively and lovely chosen colours, who reached unsurpassed perfection.

The new tendency derived from the 16th century art meant transition from stern faith in human force towards new inventions of Man, considered only a particle in huge and diverse Universe. 17th century art is dominated by unity of different manifestations of two styles – Baroque and Classicism. Baroque took some Renaissance features: optimism, synthesis of love and life, but at the same time revealed contrasts between sky and earth, real and fantastic, refined and grotesque. As style it was Baroque, which represented the best way unity of expression of new ideas about world and Man’s place in it. Classicism ideally connected the notions of reason and legality with beauty, truth with kindness. More just and intelligent the Man becomes, more tragic becomes his world existence - dramatic idea reaching peak in the 16th century and valid for the next too.

The 17th century witnesses flourishing of genres like portrait and landscape, as well as allegoric composition. Each European school develops own genres. Thus French absolute monarchy favours historic composition, gala portrait and “painting of real world”. Flemish school generates Baroque, specific and refined, manifested in allegoric compositions and still natures of intense colours: food on table, plates and dishes, tasty and enlighten fruits.

Dutch Republic, born by revolution, paid great attention to still life and cradled watercolours painting and landscape. Aert van der Neer, author of Landscape with Moonlight, is one of the representatives of Dutch landscape painters who depicted beauty of nature as deeply sensed as truly shown.

Italian school though wasn’t among leaders, still mattered in the context of European culture, in itself comprising communion of pathos, idealism and materialist conviction, interpretation of biblical subjects as daily scenes.

The 18th century is marked by the Enlightenment and coalescing of principles prior fought opposed. Art has a special place in the system of Enlightenment thought, though art isn’t independent as literature or philosophy, where such towering figures as Voltaire and Diderot dominate minds. That’s why Diderot defined art of this epoch as “Rococo of aristocrats”, “sentimentalism of aristocrats”, as well as “revolutionary Classicism of bourgeoisie”. 18th century Classicism (Neoclassicism) kept the general image of the previous century and its grandeur. But partly rejected ancient original norms, acquiring own stylistic integrity. The symbol of the 18th century became Rococo, a new word in art. It has aesthetic, subtle and refined principles, a product belonging to high-society culture. France continues to be the spiritual leader in artistic life. Gala portrait, mostly preferred by French artists, reached perfection, but still preserved a certain trend for festivity and presented decor as mark of Rococo. Portrait of daughter of Philippe de Orleans, French regent shown here is testament to it.

Italian art progressed mainly in the independent Republic of Venice. Baroque had been of biggest interest there until 1770s. Created according to all perspective rules, well-documented but with poetical expression, works of this period brought fame to Venice. Painters emerged whose pet themes were ones with ancient ruins or architectural compositions. These themes were exquisitely realized in rich painting manner with thin contrast between light and shade.

The end of the 18th – the beginning of the 19th century had been bright for England. Rational tendencies, widespread in this country, were breeding ground for Classicism. Main genres were landscape and portrait. Foundation of the Royal Academy gave new impulse to development of the new direction, including pre-Romanticism.

Development of Baroque in 18th-century Germany had been under influence of Catholic Church, hence its official status. To the end of century Classicism got a consolidated form. Portraits and landscapes could be distinguished by majesty and simplicity.

During the 18th century all eyes in Europe had been on Russia, where Peter the Great’s reforms enhanced not only state administration, politics and economy, but also cultural life of the country. Secular art, as leader, had big impact over different genres and styles. Peter constantly invited artists from abroad. Portrait was dominant.

The French Revolution and other historic events influenced art at the end of the 18th – beginning of the 19th century. The 19th-century culture wasn’t uniform: among general trends national schools left marks during the epoch. A progressive feature was the appearance of a new school: Romanticism. In parallel Realism made inroads and led to consolidation of European art. Within French art several directions got form: revolutionary classicism, revolutionary romanticism and critical realism.

The subject of loneliness that appears in portrait is characteristic to all the European schools (“Portrait of a Man”, “Portrait of a Woman” by A. Kriebel). In landscape romanticism is combined with sentimentalism, especially in the German art (“Winter Landscape” by W. Meyerheim, “Riders’ Games in the Alps” by A. Schmidt). All this leads to revaluation of values, revision of forms and to the new comprehension of fine arts.

During the 19th century’s first half in Russia, as well as Europe, art is greatly influenced by then political events – War of 1812, Decembrists‘ revolt of 1825. Literature and music had played their important role in development of Russian culture: it is the epoch of Pushkin and Lermontov, Musorgski and Borodin. All genres of art are independent. Romanticism found in Russia a breeding ground, being developed in works of such painters as K. Bryullov, O. Kiprenski, V. Tropinin. Second half of the 19th century characterised by abolition of serfdom, by appearance and development of critical realism – important trend that reflects negative sides of life.

Towards the border of 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and then in Russia there has been revised the role of art in society, giving birth to the theory of “art for art”, that later provokes deviation from principles of realism in painting. Impressionists and postimpressionists in Europe, as well as association, named “World of Arts”, and circle of painters from Abramtsevo, in Russia, have become initiators of the new European style – modernism (“Cemetery in Pskov” by N. Riorih).

The imaginary trip through the works exhibited in the Gallery of World Art of the National Museum is just beginning in that mysterious and fascinating labyrinth of fine arts.



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