It’s a new exceptional exhibition that has just opened at the Fondation Vuitton: 5 years of work will have been necessary to bring together 200 masterpieces of modern art from the Morozov collection and presented for the first time outside Russia!
Who were the Morozov brothers? How did they build their art collection? And what can be seen in the exhibition at the Fondation Vuitton? Answers in this article!
Who were the Morozovs?
At the origin of this incredible collection are two brothers: Mikhail and Ivan Morozov. Nothing predestined this Russian family to assemble one of the largest art collections in the world.
In 1770, their great-grandfather Savva was born into servitude and worked for Count Nikolai Ruminin. Nevertheless, he managed to create a silk ribbon workshop which quickly became so successful that in 1820 he was able to raise the colossal sum of 17,000 rubles to buy back his freedom and that of his family.
The Morozovs became a wealthy family of industrialists who owned several textile factories. Mikhail’s and Ivan’s mother Varvara gave the two brothers a thorough artistic education and gave them a strong taste for theater, literature and painting.
The formation of the Morozov collection
At the end of the 19th century, Russian cultural life opened up to modernity and certain bourgeois like Shchukin (to whom the Foundation devoted an exhibition in 2017) began to collect works of art. It was in this context that Mikhail began his collection in the 1890s with the help of advisors such as the painters Konstantine Korovine and Valentin Serov.
Mikhaïl Morozov collected impressionist paintings, landscapes, scenes of Parisian life but also nudes which was then very badly perceived in his still very puritanical environment and which demonstrated the courage of his artistic choices. Manet, Corot, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Bonnard, Denis, Gauguin and Van Gogh joined his collection.
When Mikhail died in 1903, the collection consisted of 39 French and 44 Russian works. His brother Ivan took over the project with the ambition to build up an exemplary collection of modern French art. He regularly went to Paris where he was advised by Ambroise Vollard, Eugène Druet and Paul Durand-Ruel. He discovered the work of Cézanne, collected the Fauves (like Matisse and Derain) and became the first Russian to buy a painting by Picasso, for 300 francs!
In 1918, the Morozovs’ remarkable collection included 240 French works of art and 430 Russian works. During the Russian revolution, a decree by Lenin confiscated and nationalized the collection which was then dispersed to various museums. Some so-called “degenerate” paintings were hidden in Siberia to escape destruction.
Today, most of the works of the Morozov collection are kept in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
Some masterpieces to admire in the exhibition at the Fondation Vuitton
Masterpieces follow one another in the 4,000 m2 of this incredible exhibition! It’s hard to choose just a few paintings but here are a few to give you an idea of what awaits you at the Foundation.
Van Gogh’s Prisoners’ Round
An entire room is devoted to this one painting, so remarkable is it. The Round of Prisoners is a departure from Van Gogh’s usual paintings: the artist painted this canvas during his long months of confinement in the asylum of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, inspired by a drawing by Gustave Doré.
If you look at this work carefully, you will notice that one of the prisoners stands out. With his arms outstretched, in the middle of the circle and looking at the viewer, Van Gogh himself has represented himself in the costume of a death row inmate.
The monumental decor by Maurice Denis
Another room is devoted to the monumental decor commissioned by Ivan Morozov from Maurice Denis for the music room of his private mansion, consisting of seven panels illustrating the story of Psyche.
The delicacy of Corot’s landscapes, the melancholy of Cézanne, the bright colors of Vlaminck or the mischief of Toulouse-Lautrec await you in this exhibition to be discovered absolutely until February 22, 2022.
Enjoy your visit 😉
To go further
To learn more about this exhibition or simply to keep a memory of it, a beautiful catalog has been published by Gallimard editions where you will find reproductions of the masterpieces on 440 pages.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Opening hours :
Until February 22, 2022
Opening hours vary according to the season, consult the museum website
Full price: €16
Under 26 years old, students and teachers: €10
Under 18 years old, artists and job seekers: €5