Russian Museums and Galleries Krasnodar Fyodor Kovalenko Museum of Art History of the Collection of West European Art

History of the Collection of West European Art

The collection of foreign painting at the Krasnodar Museum of Art is based on the body of works once belonging to the founder of the museum – Fyodor Akimovich Kovalenko (1866–1919). Fyodor Kovalenko amassed a large collection of West European painting, which he donated to the town of Ekaterinodar (now Krasnodar). His picture gallery was officially opened on 11 April 1904.

The Kovalenko collection was largely based on works by modern Russian artists and only included a few paintings by foreign masters. The collector acquired his first works of foreign art in 1898. These were copies by Giuseppe Parrini – a modern Italian copy artist from Florence – of Raphael’s Self-Portrait and Madonna of the Chair and Sebastiano del Piombo’s La Fornarina.

Raphael was Fyodor Kovalenko’s favourite artist and a copy of the master’s Self-Portrait can be seen in a photograph of his apartment. Kovalenko eagerly acquired copies of paintings by the great Renaissance painter and Italian painting dominated the works of foreign art in his collection. He is believed to have specially visited Italy around 1900. This is when Giuseppe Parrini painted portraits of Fyodor Kovalenko and his niece A. G. Yalova (both works were acquired by the museum in 1988). To the end of his days, the collector retained his affection for the homeland of fine art.

These copies were followed by works painted by modern Italian artists. The new acquisitions were mostly landscape studies, acquired in various years from the Trenti Art Salon at 21 Bolshaya Morskaya Street in St Petersburg.

A total of fifty-three pictures by foreign artists were inherited from the Ekaterinodar Picture Gallery. Most of these works were originally acquired without any definite system or academic basis. While they could not constitute the basis of the collection of foreign art, the works from the Fyodor Kovalenko collection were those grains which offered his successors the opportunity to develop and form the depositories.

The years from 1924 to 1933 were the period of the formation of the collection of foreign art. After the 1917 revolution, the Fyodor Kovalenko Picture Gallery underwent various transformations. In 1921, it was included in the composition of the single Krasnodar Provincial Museum. In 1924, the gallery regained its independence, when it was renamed the Anatoly Lunacharsky Museum of Art.

The main aim of the museum in those years was to expand its collection. Professor Romuald Wójcik was dispatched to the State Museum Fund in Moscow, where he was awarded 450 works by Russian and foreign masters. This allowed the museum to open a new display of modern art at the permanent exhibition in 1924 and 1925.

Romuald Wójcik wrote in his official report for 1924–25: “With profound gratitude, the Kuban museum notes the high cultural benefits of the actions of Nikolai Mashkovtsev and Abram Efros (employees of Glavmuzei), Anatoly Bakushinsky (head of the Ivan Tsvetkov Gallery) and Pyotr Williams (curator of the Museum of Painterly Culture). Their efforts in expanding and enriching the museum collections have changed its appearance beyond recognition.”

The ties with Moscow were further strengthened in 1926, when the museum was visited by Anatoly Lunacharsky. The minister of education began his tour in the rooms of foreign art, noting the high quality of the permanent exhibition. Lunacharsky called the museum one of the finest provincial museums in Russia, helping to develop its links with the country’s leading state museums.

Romuald Wójcik was director of the museum from 1927 to 1931. Writing in Red Banner in October 1928, he informed the local population: “The transfer of a body of paintings from the Hermitage Museum to the Kuban Museum of Art is an unprecedented event for a provincial art museum. An outstanding selection of characteristic works of the European schools of painting from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, this collection includes extremely valuable material.”

When Anatoly Lunacharsky visited the museum on a second occasion in 1930, he noted the important changes and growth of the museum collection: “It was with great pleasure that I visited the museum of art. For a provincial museum, it possesses interesting and informative exhibits and clearly works with knowledge and love. I wish the museum future prosperity and wide influence on society. Academician Anatoly Lunacharsky, member of the presidium of the Central Executive Committee.”

Such important new acquisitions allowed the museum to expand its permanent exhibition of foreign art. The permanent exhibition was divided into such leading schools of European painting as the Italian (16th to 18th centuries), Dutch (17th and 18th centuries) and French (17th and 18th centuries).

The majority of new works came from various collections of leading collectors and have an interesting provenance.

The Krasnodar Museum of Art acquired many new works by Dutch and Netherlandish masters. The first collector of Dutch art in Russia was Peter the Great in 1717. Jan Marts’ Riders Duelling on a Bridge hung in the study of the Cabin of Peter the Great in St Petersburg, where the Russian emperor lived and worked during the construction of the new Russian capital. This particular painting was acquired in 1931, along with the other works transferred from the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

During his Great Embassy to Holland, Peter the Great visited the studios of local artists and became personally acquainted with several Dutch painters. One such artist, Carel de Moor (1656–1738), was commissioned to paint pendant portraits of Peter and his wife Catherine. The Hermitage owns three pictures by Carel de Moor.

In 1770, Catherine the Great acquired the famous collection of art belonging to François Tronchin. A member of the Council of Two Hundred, the Swiss legislative organ, Tronshen was a passionate art lover who assembled a magnificent collection of painting. Catherine II purchased this body of works on the advice of Diderot and Voltaire. The Tronchin collection included Carel de Moor’s Hermit (1730). After hanging in the Hermitage for over a century, it was transferred to the Krasnodar Museum of Art in 1931.

One of the masterpieces in the museum collection is Portrait of Cardinal Camillo Astali Pamphili, which has now been attributed to Diego Velázquez. Presented to Tsar Nicholas I by the Spanish ambassador in 1834, this painting was awarded to the Krasnodar Museum of Art in 1929.

Francesco Morandini’s Female Portrait has an interesting provenance. In the sixteenth century, it belonged to the Medici family – a powerful Italian dynasty of bankers and merchants famous for its patronage of the arts throughout the Renaissance. The Medici family crest was burnt onto a piece of the old board on the reverse of the portrait, which also contains vestiges of a red sealing-wax stamp with the Medici coat of arms.

Female Portrait was acquired by Elizaveta Mordvinova. It entered the Krasnodar Museum of Art as a work by an unknown Italian master among other foreign paintings transferred from the Hermitage. The remains of the Medici crest helped to attribute the work and to establish its provenance.

The Fyodor Kovalenko Museum of Art owns works once belonging to the private collections of the geographer and explorer Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky and the famous Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.

Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky’s collection of Dutch painting was acquired for the Hermitage in 1910. Nine works by such famous artists as Hans Bol, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Denis Waterloo and Emanuel Murant come from this collection.

The Hermitage acquired works from the Nicholas Roerich collection in 1921, including nine works by such masters as Kerstiaen de Keuninck, Marten Heemskerck van der Heck and Joos de Momper the Younger. This list of names underscores the importance of canvases dating from private collections.

Over the following decades, the museum acquired many individual works by foreign artists. The collection of paintings donated by artists or private collectors is particularly interesting.

The German artist Johannes Brauer donated forty-five works of graphic art to the museum in the period from 1967 to 1977. This gift forms the basis of the collection of modern European art.

In 1988, A. A. Brourie donated his collection of drawings and paintings by modern Dutch artists to the museum. Himself of Dutch extraction, Brourier worked for a period of time at the Rostov Documentary Film Studios and was a good friend of the museum. The works of such modern Dutch masters as Bas van der Smit, Evert Moll, Jelle Hoostra and Jan Boom made an important contribution to the collection of modern European art.

Several generations of curators have helped to create a collection of foreign art embracing many different European schools. The museum collection also includes canvases acquired from the Academy of Arts Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the State Museum Fund.

The Fyodor Kovalenko Museum of Art of Krasnodar Region is now home to an original and important collection of West European art. The rich collection of foreign painting and canvases by leading Russian masters ranks the gallery among the nation’s leading museums.

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