Sergei Shchukin (1854-1936)
The Russian textile magnate Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin is famous for his magnificent collection of modern art, featuring the greatest Post-Impressionist painters, including: the Fauvists Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Andre Derain (1880-1954), the Cubist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), the expressionist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90), the colourist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), the neo-impressionist Paul Signac (1863-1935), and members of the Ecole de Paris like Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), and Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). He also bought a number of outstanding Impressionist paintings by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Claude Monet (1840-1926), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Shchukin is known for his particularly close association with Matisse, who helped to decorate his Moscow mansion and also painted his seminal painting, La Danse (1910), especially for Shchukin. An earlier study of La Danse (1909) is in The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York. Shchukin also bought Matisse's celebrated work Harmony in Red (1908). In 1918, Shchukin and his family fled Russia, and his art collection was expropriated by the Bolshevik government. The collection was later divided between the Hermitage Gallery in St Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow - a fate which also befell the collection of his fellow countryman Ivan Morozov (1871-1921).
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The second half of the 19th century in Russia witnessed several important changes. In 1861, serfdom was abolished, and the country then underwent a period of rapid industrialization under Czar Alexander III (ruled 1881-94), which saw the emergence of a new generation of Russian merchants. Among them were a number of culturally aware individuals, like the Morozovs, Shchukins, Tretyakovs and Ryabushinskys, who (like the noblemen Rumyantsev, Yusupov and Golitsyn) had a passion for fine art.
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Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin was born in Moscow, the third son in a family of ten. His father Ivan Vassilievich Shchukin was a self-made textile millionaire, while his mother Ekaterina Botkin came from a family of established Moscow merchants. In 1878, after a period of industrial training and study abroad, Shchukin joined the family textile firm. Over the next 10-12 years, a combination of hard work and business acumen made him one of the most respected textile traders in Moscow. Meanwhile, his marriage to Lydia Ivanovna Koreneva was blessed with four children, and he and his family moved into the historical Trubetzkoy Palace, bought for him by his father.
Starts Collecting Art
By the early 1890s he was developing an interest in art (his brothers were also collectors), although his serious collecting career didn't start until 1897, when he made a business trip to Paris. He visited the gallery of the elderly French picture dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) where he bought Lilacs at Argenteuil (1873, Pushkin Museum) by Monet.
So began Shchukin's devotion to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. He was drawn in particular to the works of Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet and Renoir, although his collecting developed in stages. Up to 1904 he collected mostly Monets; during the period 1904-10 he purchased works by Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh - (he was devastated in 1906 when he was unable to get to the big Cezanne retrospective in Paris); and between 1908 and 1914 he focused on Post-Impressionist painting by Matisse and Picasso.
His collecting activities may also have been affected by a number of tragedies that descended on Shchukin's family during the period 1907-1914. In 1905, one of his children drowned in the Moskva river; in 1907, his wife died; in 1908, his brother Ivan committed suicide; and finally in 1910 a second child also committed suicide. In response, Shchukin became a manic collector. It was around 1908 that he met and made the acquaintance of Matisse, from whom he eventually bought a total of 37 paintings - including some of his greatest-ever works. In 1909-10, he commissioned two enormous decorative panels (Dance and Music) from Matisse, for the staircase of his Muscovite mansion, and in 1911 brought the artist to Moscow in order to supervise their installation.
During the late 1900s, as well as Matisse, Shchukin was also drawn to the abstract paintings being produced by Picasso. Indeed, he was the only regular customer of Picasso's dealer Daniel Kahnweiler (1884-1979) for Cubist works by the artist in the run-up to the First World War. By 1914, his 'Picasso gallery' contained 50 paintings by the Spaniard: most are examples of Cubism, but as well as this non-objective art it also featured several works from Picasso's 'Blue' and 'Rose' periods. From 1909, Shchukin opened his house to the public, who were able to view his collection of French avant garde art without charge.
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 severed all contact between Shchukin and his dealers. His art career was over. Fortunately love blossomed. In 1915, he met and later married Nadejda Affanassievna, an attractive divorcee with whom he had a daughter. In 1918, amid the chaos and uncertainty of the February Revolution, the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, and the Bolshevik takeover, Shchukin and his family manage to leave Russia for Paris, where he died in 1936, at the age of 82.
The Shchukin Art Collection
Over the course of 20 years, from 1895 to 1914, Shchukin amassed a holding of some 264 paintings, including: 50 Picassos, 38 Matisses, 16 Derains, 16 Gauguins, 13 Monets, 9 Marquets, 8 Cezannes, and 7 Rousseaus. According to Alfred Barr, founding director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Shchukin put together "the greatest collection, public or private, in the world" of contemporary French painting.
A few months after Shchukin's departure from Russia, his Moscow mansion, together with his scintillating art collection, was expropriated by the Soviet State, and transformed into the First Museum of Modern Western Art. In 1928 this became the State Museum of Modern Western Art, later closed in 1948 by Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's culture chief. Its collection was divided between the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow (84 works) and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (149 works), as well as institutions in Baku (2 works) and Odessa (1 work).
Art Collections of Petr and Dmitry Shchukin
The art collections of his brothers Petr and Dmitry Shchukin also ended up in government hands. In 1905, Petr Shchukin donated his entire collection of decorative art a total of 40,000 items, including ancient Russian icons, jewellery, samovars, carpets, crockery and other rare objects of Russian art - together with the building where they were kept to the State History Museum. In 1918, the Bolsheviks expropriated the collection of Old Masters, sculptures, bronze, and glassware, assembled by Dmitry Shchukin. It too was divided between a number of institutions.