Russian masterpieces on display OUTSIDE Russia (PICS)

Russian works of fine art, icons and jewelry found their way abroad in various ways: they were collected by museums and private individuals, exported by emigrants and even sold by the Soviet government. In the post-revolutionary years, many artists also found their way out of the country, so masterpieces of Russian avant-garde also spread all over the world.

1. The 13th century ‘Our Lady of Kursk’iconCathedral of the Sign, New York, United States

This wonderworking icon left Russia in 1920. It was taken by priests who fled from the Bolsheviks during the Civil War. For a long time, it was kept in Belgrade, but, since 1950, its home has been in New York in the main cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Read more about the icon’s journey here

2. Ivan Aivazovsky. Self-portrait, 1874Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Few Russian artists have had the honor of being represented in the gallery that houses the masters of the Renaissance. In 1873, the Uffizi hosted an exhibition of paintings by Russia’s main marine artist. The gallery had an old tradition of commissioning self-portraits of prominent artists, and Aivazovsky received such an offer. He depicted himself against the background of a stormy sky. 

3. 'Basket of flowers' (1901) & 'The Mosaic' (1914)Faberge eggsThe Royal Collection, London, UK

'Basket of flowers' (1901) Faberge egg

The British Royal Collection contains many items of Russian art, including icons, paintings and portraits, graphics, malachite vases from Peterhof and many others.

'The Mosaic' (1914) Faberge egg

Among them are two Easter eggs, which Nicholas II ordered from the famous Faberge firm for his wife Alexandra Feodorovna.

4. Ilya Repin. Self-Portrait, 1915 — National Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic

In 1900, an exhibition of the Russian Society for Itinerant Art was held in Prague (the only one ever held abroad; read more about them here). At this exhibition, the public also got acquainted with Repin's works. After the revolution, Prague became one of the centers of Russian emigration. Exhibitions of the artist-realist are often heldthere and this portrait is in the collection of the National Gallery. For a long time, however, it lay in storerooms.

5. The Romanovs’ nuptial crown — Hillwood Museum, Washington, D.C., United States

In 1966, this crown was purchased at a Sotheby's auction by Marjorie Post, wife of the former American Ambassador to the USSR. Back in the 1930s, while living in Moscow, she bought a huge number of items from Tsarist Russia from a consignment store. In the 1960s, she moved her extensive collection of Russian rarities to her Hillwood estate near Washington D.C. Now, it is one of the largest museums of Russian tsarist treasures in the United States: porcelain, paintings and jewelry, including Fabergé eggs.

6. Kazimir Malevich. Suprematist Composition: White on White, 1918 — Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, United States

The Soviet authorities declared avant-garde painting to be too formalist, but, outside Russia, it was in a high demand. Malevich painted the suprematist composition ‘White on White’ after his famous ‘Black Square’, as well as several other works in the spirit of ‘White on White’, which Russian museums lack today. However, they can be found in the New York's MoMA. It also houses several other works by Malevich and other iconic avant-garde artists, from Wassily Kandinsky to Natalia Goncharova and Marc Chagall.

7. Marc Chagall’s Birthday (1915) and I and the Village (1911) — MoMA, New York City, United States

Marc Chagall ‘Birthday’ (1915)

Masterpieces by the Jewish artist, who was born in Vitebsk (then the Russian Empire), but later settled in France, can be found in museums around the world.

Marc Chagall ‘I and the Village’ (1911)

MoMA boasts several works, including these famous autobiographical paintings.

8. Wassily Kandinsky. Murnau. Landscape with Rainbow, 1909 — Lenbachhaus in Munich, Germany

Kandinsky's abstract art can be found in New York, Paris, Moscow and Berlin. A huge collection of his paintings is kept in Munich's Lenbachhaus Gallery. All the artists of the Blue Rider art group, founded by Kandinsky, are also exhibited there. Munich was a special city for the artist, as he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts there and lived there for many years.

9. Wassily Kandinsky. Composition 8, 1923 — the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, United States

One of Kandinsky's most famous works is located in the United States. Collector Guggenheim was a big fan of avant-garde, so, he had Kandinsky, as well as Malevich and many other Russian modernist artists in his collection.

10. Natalia Goncharova. Gardening, 1908 — the Tate, London, UK

The British have a special love for the Russian avant-garde. London’s Tate gallery has a large collection of the early 20th century art experiences, including paintings by Natalia Goncharova and her husband Mikhail Larionov.

11. Nicholas Roerich paintings— The Roerich Museum, New York City, United States

Nicholas Roerich ‘Madonna of Oriflamma’ (1932)

In Manhattan, there is an entire museum filled with paintings by this mystical and distinctive Russian artist. There are mostly views of the Himalayas, but there are also Russian landscapes and religious and philosophical works, such as ‘Madonna of Oriflamma’ (1932).

Read more about the Roerich Museum in New York in our article

12. Eric Bulatov. Glory of the CPSU, 2003-2005 — Pompidou Center, Paris, France

The Pompidou Center in Paris has a huge collection of Russian art and it’s no wonder, as it was to Paris that the bulk of the Russian artists emigrated to. But, in addition to avant-garde masterpieces, the museum also has the largest collection of Russian contemporary art outside of Russia. In 2016, the Potanin Foundation donated more than 300 works from the 1950s-2000s to the French gallery, including this emblematic canvas by Eric Bulatov.

13. El Lissitzky. Self-Portrait: The Constructor, 1924 — City Museum (Stedelijkmuseum), Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Avant-garde artist, painter and architect El Lissitzky lived his entire life in Russia and the USSR. This collage ended up in the collection of Nikolai Khardzhiev, which he took abroad. This is how it ended up in the Amsterdam museum, along with a large number of other works. 

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