Undiscovered Masterpieces

Russian Art from the Collections of the Baltic Countries

March 23 – June 24, 2012


An international exhibition will bring masterpieces of Russian art to the Kumu and Kadriorg Art Museums

The project is the first joint exposition of the works by Russian artists, from the late 19th century and early 20th century, from the museums of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The paintings, sculptures and works of applied art, which have been gathered from seven museums in the three Baltic countries, provide an excellent survey of the golden age of Russian art and the works of undiscovered masters.

The exhibition is divided into two parts. At the Kumu Art Museum, the works being exhibited include 19th-century Realist paintings and the official art of the day – Academic Art and Salon Art. Represented are some of the greats of the Peredvizhniki Movement – Ivan Kramskoi, Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin, Vasily Perov, Alexei Savrassov and others – as well as representatives of Late Realism.

“The exhibition installed at Kumu is not only a pleasant meeting with the works of world-famous artists,” said Kumu curator Tiina Abel. “Works by the artists of the Peredvizhniki Movement provided the impetus for one of the most intensive and exciting discussions in Russian art history. Displaying the works of the members of the Peredvizhniki group alongside the Salon artists provides an idea of the content of this artistic battle.”

According to Tiina Abel, the lively discourse on the goals, position and impact of art on society in the second half of the 19th century was one of the most important issues of art theory. “The outlines of the two camps, which developed as a result of this discussion, are still perceptible today. The artists-realists demanding the creation of true, socially critical, modern and popular art stood on one side of the battle line. On the other side was the St. Petersburg Art Academy, which represented traditions that had survived for centuries, and produced the protectors of “pure art” – the creators of art that provided beauty and visual enjoyment,” Abel said.

At the Kadriorg Art Museum, works from what has been called the “Silver Age” are exhibited, from Russian Impressionism to the search for forms by the Avant-Garde at the beginning of the 20th century. Special attention is paid to works by the artists who belonged to the groups called Mir Iskusstva and Knave of Diamonds, as well as the theatrical theme in 20th-century Russian art. Many superb artists, including Boris Kustodiev, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Konstantin Korovin and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, will be represented with numerous works.

“The works of art that are exhibited at the Kadriorg Art Museum reflect the colourful and turbulent art life in Russia at the turn of the 20th century,” said Aleksandra Murre, curator at the Kadriorg Art Museum. “This was the heyday of Russian poetry, music and art and all these arts strove toward synthesis, with the goal of creating one aesthetic world. This period brought light, colour and joie de vivre into painting, by contrasting the narrative style of the Peredvizhniki group and the fossilized system of Academism.”

The collections of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian museums provide an excellent selection of famous and masterly works by Russian artists that are not widely known. By exhibiting them together, the works from the seven museums provide a good survey of the basic directions and more important masters of Russian art from the middle of the 19th century to the first quarter of the 20th century.

For the Kadriorg Museum, a comprehensive exhibition of the jewels in its collection is currently very topical since the museum will be closed to visitors for six months, starting on 1 July 2012, for renovations. The updating of museum buildings with more efficient technological solutions is on the agenda in many countries. Thus, the Latvian National Museum of Art is also preparing for a general overhaul of its main building, and the implementation of an ambitious project for new depositories.

On Saturday, 24 March, a public day devoted to the exhibition will take place at the Kumu Art Museum and Kadriorg Art Museum, in the course of which the public can take tours and listen to lectures. For children, creative workshops will take place and playrooms will be available.

The preparations for the exhibition brought together professionals and art institutions from three European countries: the Art Museum of Estonia, Latvian National Museum of Art, Lithuanian Art Museum, M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum, Lithuanian Theatre, Music and Film Museum, Tartu Art Museum, and Narva Museum

The exhibition’s graphic design: Andres Tali

Exhibition design: KAOS Architects.

Undiscovered Masterpieces. Russian Art from the Collections of the Baltic Countries at the Kumu Art Museum from 22 March to 12 August 2012 and at the Kadriorg Art Museum from 22 March to 24 June 2012.