The Old Masters from the State Hermitage Museum exhibit has been on show at the Mori Arts Center Gallery (森アーツセンターギャラリー) at Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) since mid-March 2017. And as the show is about to be moved to its second location in Nagoya (名古屋) in mid-June 2017, here is an introduction to the exhibit for those who are thinking about visiting or did not know about it until now. If this article interests you in the works of the old European masters, make sure to go visit the Mori Arts Center Gallery before the exhibit in Tokyo ends!
— エカ様〈大エルミタージュ美術館展〉公式 (@Dai_hermitage) May 2, 2017
The Old Masters from the State Hermitage Museum exhibit, as the name suggests, features various artworks by old European masters from the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Saint Petersburg was the capital of a monarchic Russia, and this historical city is home to the beautiful and elegant State Hermitage Museum.
The State Hermitage Museum was the palace of many tzars and has been built over 100 years ago. It is considered to be founded in 1764 when Yekaterina II (Catherine the Great) got 317 paintings into her collection and created a space to showcase her newly acquired artworks. She called this space the “hermitage” which means “secret house” in French. Over her 34-year-long reign, Yekaterina II collected approximately 2,500 paintings which created the base for the extensive collection that the Hermitage now holds.
— エカ様〈大エルミタージュ美術館展〉公式 (@Dai_hermitage) May 22, 2017
The Hermitage houses over 3,100,000 pieces of art, of which 17,000 are oil paintings. In this traveling exhibit called the “Old Masters from the State Hermitage Museum,” 85 pieces have been chosen to represent the “old masters” from the 16th-century Renaissance, and 17th- and 18th-century Baroque artists that heavily influenced and molded art in their respective time periods. All 85 paintings are from the Hermitage’s constant collection which are always on display and are considered to be the face of the Hermitage. The exhibit shows these 85 pieces according to the location they were created and is a wonderful collection of key pieces of art from the 16th, 17th, and 18th century.
The exhibit starts off in Italy, in the Renaissance. The Renaissance period in Italy is a period of prosperity and cultural growth as Italy establishes itself as the art center of the world. Beginning with Tiziano Vecelli’s (Titian) portraits which capture the essence of the Renaissance in Italy very well, to the intense painting styles from the Baroque period.
The exhibit then moves on to the Netherlands showcasing the old masters such as Rembrandt and Hals. Artists of the Netherlands in the 17th century produced an astonishing amount of high-quality paintings which is considered as the “golden age” of painting. The paintings of this period appealed not only to the upper class but the commoners as well through their wide range of themes and motifs.
Then, the exhibit moves onto a Baroque Flanders, a religious Spain, a classical style France that was moving from Baroque to Rococo, and finally, to Germany and England which found themselves stuck between superpowers in terms of artwork. 16th-century Germany was in great turmoil as the religious revolutions were taking place. England, on the other hand, was in the midst of the Puritan Revolution and socio-economic unrest was affecting the people. Finally, at the beginning of the 18th century, England managed to raise its level of painting which led to the springing of painting masters such as Thomas Gainsborough.
The Mori Arts Center Gallery is located on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower (森タワー) at Roppongi Hills. If you can’t make it to this wonderful exhibit during its time in Tokyo (東京), the show will be moved to Nagoya after its closing in Roppongi, and eventually to Kobe (神戸) after that in early October 2017.
If you have any interest in Western art from the 16th, 17th, and 18th century, this Old Masters from the State Hermitage Museum exhibit is a great place to start! I am sure you will find a style, time period, or artist that will intrigue you and leave you wanting to look at more paintings. I can vouch that it is just not the same to look at a scan or photograph of a painting. Being in the presence of the actual piece is a completely different experience and I highly recommend having that experience at the Hermitage exhibit. It is a once in a lifetime chance that you do not want to miss!