Why Morozov’s Impressionist collection is the most awaited show in Paris

Of the two siblings, it was Mikhail who first developed a passion for art. Travelling all over Europe and even to Africa, he often brought back to Russia European artworks that formed the backbone of his collection.

Of the two siblings, it was Mikhail who first developed a passion for art. Travelling all over Europe and even to Africa, he often brought back to Russia European artworks that formed the backbone of his collection.

Paul Cezanne, Peaches And Pears, 1895 / Global Look Press
The first-ever combined exhibition bringing together masterpieces from Russian art collector Sergei Shchukin was visited by 1.2 million people this year in Paris. By 2020 Russia’s Hermitage, Pushkin Museum and Tretyakov Gallery plan to repeat the success, gathering treasures collected by Mikhail and Ivan Morozov on the premises of the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the French capital.
At the beginning of 20th century the Morozov family played a key role in the cultural life of Moscow. Born to a family of textile businessmen, the brothers were among the first art collectors who identified the brilliance of such artists as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
In the early 1900s Mikhail was the proud owner of 83 paintings by Russian and West European artists. The highlight of his collection were works by Maurice Denis, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh, to name just a few.
It was Mikhail who brought these artists to the attention of his brother Ivan and another art collector by the name of Sergei Shchukin. Mikhail sadly died in 1903, and 60 paintings from his collection were bequeathed to the Tretyakov Gallery.
After Mikhail’s death his brother Ivan took over the family passion for collecting art. He regularly went to Europe, mostly to Paris, and spent most of his time at local museums and exhibitions.
He spent way more on buying artworks than European art collectors or museums could ever imagine doing so. Though a very pragmatic businessman, he spent around 200-300,000 francs on art every single year.
Over the following decade his collection expanded to contain more than 250 modern works of French art, including Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Gauguin and others.
Having spent 1.5 million francs on French art in 11 years, Morozov owned  278 paintings and 23 sculptures, not to mention around 300 Russian works he also cherished.
Ivan even renovated his estate to make more space to showcase his collection. Yet it was not easy to see it – the collector didn’t like publicity and preferred to enjoy the masterpieces on his own.
After the revolution, in 1918 his gallery was nationalized. He worked there as deputy curator of his own collection and showed it to the public. In spring 1919 he left Russia together with his wife and daughter and settled in Paris.
Living abroad, he felt no bitterness about his family’s business or wealth that he lost. All he cared about was his collection, and on losing it, his life became devoid of meaning.  In 1921 he passed away as a result of a heart attack in Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary).
Paul Cezanne was Ivan’s favorite artist. He owned the finest collection of his works, including “Girl at the Piano,” “Self-Portrait in a Casquette,” “Montagne Sainte-Victoire” and “Blue Landscape.”
His art collection survived and was later combined with Shchukin’s collection. In the 1930s the treasures of the two collections were divided between the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the Hermitage in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). During Joseph Stalin’s rule they were kept in storage but reappeared on museums’ walls in the 1960s. Now not only Russian public has an opportunity to see them: after Shchukin’s exhibition in Paris in October 2016-March 2017, Morozov’s treasures will also come to Paris. The Fondation Louis Vuitton together with the Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage announced that the French capital will host an exhibition of Morozov’s collection in 2020. Keep an eye out for updates!
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