Arts and Culture

Tuesday evening, renowned art historian Emmanuel Ducamp will give a lecture at the Speed Art Museum that centers on one unexpected reality: Russia is one of the best places in the world to see French art.

Why? Well, Ducamp explains with a little pre-lecture history:

“The Russians, from the late 17th and early 18th century, have always been interested in what happened abroad and that included France,” Ducamp says. “Therefore, they had a very broad interest, including decorative arts.”

Which Ducamp — a professor at Ecole du Louvre — says was initially pretty pragmatic “because they needed to furnish those huge palaces they were building.”

The Russian sovereigns, like Catherine the Great, the St. Petersburg aristocracy, and even the Moscow entrepreneurs soon developed a unique taste for French works of art.

“They bought avant-garde paintings starting with Monet and Manet and Renoir and Puvis de Chavannes, but ending up with Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picassos,” Ducamp says. “So that today, Russia is actually one of the best places to go to see fantastic paintings from that period.”

Ducamp says during his lecture, he will walk visitors through a timeline of purchases; from Sèvres porcelain and Georges Jacob chairs, to paintings by Chardin and Greuze purchased by Catherine the Great in the 1780s, to Impressionist and avant-garde works by Monet and Matisse selected by Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin at the turn of the 20th century.

He will also explain how these works influenced Russian artists, and what Russian cultural exchange means for their relationship with the West today.

The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. More information is available here

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.