About the Project

The web-site “Patrons of the New Art” is dedicated to Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov – representatives of rich Russian entrepreneurial families, from whose collections stemmed almost all the works of French Impressionists and early-20th century artists now held in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow) and the State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg). They were the first men in Russia to begin collecting contemporary French art and in a comparatively short time they succeeded in assembling collections, which number among the most renowned in the world. Enjoying links with famous trading houses in Paris, Morozov and Shchukin acquired paintings from leading dealers – Paul Durand-Ruel. Ambroise Vollard, Gaston Bernheim-Jeune and Daniel Kahnweiler. No less important was the Muscovite collectors’  personal acquaintance with the painters, which enabled them with their sensitive artistic intuition to select the finest works exhibited at the “Salon d’Automne”  and the “Salon des Indépendants”. The two collectors shared an interest in contemporary French art, although their collections reflect their individual partialities. It is difficult nowadays to over-estimate the importance of their collections. Shchukin’s and Morozov’s secret has not been conclusively resolved to this day and their life-stories will always retain a certain aura of mystery. It was with distrust and suspicion that their contemporaries in Russia often viewed these unusual men of wealth, who paid what were then considered substantial sums for works by French master innovators, many of whom had not yet been acknowledged in their own country. Their descendants are always struck by Shchukin’s and Morozov’s impeccable selection of works of new art: they assembled in their collections works which have long since set indisputable standards with regard to paintings by those same painters in many of the world’s museums and private collections.

It was August 1914 which put an end to Shchukin’s and Morozov’s collecting – the beginning of the First World War – and after the October Revolution both men presented their collections to the Soviet Republic in order to preserve them. Shchukin’s museum was turned into the “First Museum of Modern Western Painting” and Morozov’s into the “Second Museum of Modern Western Painting”. In the summer of 1919 Ivan Morozov succeeded in gaining permission to obtain medical treatment abroad. He travelled through Germany to Paris and then to Karlsbad where he died soon afterwards. Sergei Shchukin settled in France, where he lived till his death in 1936.

In 1928 both collections were brought together in a single house on Moscow’s Prechistenka Street, which had belonged to Ivan Morozov and was to become the State Museum of Modern Western Art. In 1948 the museum was closed and the works divided between the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the State Hermitage Museum. It is precisely the share of the Morozov and Shchukin collections then allocated to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, which its visitors can view today. The materials of this web-site make it possible not only to appreciate the quality of the collections, which belonged to the two Moscow collectors, but also to note the specific features of the approach of each collector to the question of collecting as such and of how best to display and look after works of art in a private home at the beginning of the 20th century.