T sarist-era industrialists and art patrons the Morozov brothers are the subject of Fondation Louis Vuitton's latest Modern art show. It follows the success of the Sergei Shchukin – a contemporary of the Morozovs – collection, which drew almost 1.5 million visitors. “The idea is to tell the story of those visionary industrialists and philanthropists, as well as to explain their common passion for collecting art,” says curator Anne Baldassari.
The 200 or so items, many of them French, have never been displayed outside Russia before. The Morozovs were heavily involved in the French art scene. By the late-1890s Mikhaïl Morozov moved to Paris’s 17th arrondissement to be closer to his favourite dealers. When he died in 1903 aged 33, he had already amassed 39 French works. Still running the family business in Tver, his younger brother Ivan took over, with dealers Ambroise Vollard and Paul Durand-Ruel as advisers.
2 Paul Cézanne, Great Pine near Aix, 1895-97: In 1907 Ivan “falls in love” with the master from Aix. He purchased 18 of his works and kept them in a secret cabinet adjacent to his private apartments.
3 Valentin Serov, Portrait of the Collector of Modern Russian and French Paintings, Ivan Abramovich Morozov, 1910: In this painting, a work that captures the spirit of the exhibition, Ivan is sat before a work by Matisse.
4 Camille Claudel, The Abandonment, 1905: This bronze was one of Ivan’s last acquisitions.
The show, which is taking over the entire Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi building, will pair Russian masters such as Ilya Repin and Mikhail Larionov with western European counterparts. Bonnard and Gauguin have each been assigned a gallery, while the exhibition culminates on the top floor with the recreation of Ivan’s music room. The installation comprises 13 panels by Symbolist painter Maurice Denis and four statues by sculptor Aristide Maillol, all commissioned by Ivan.
Like Shchukin’s treasures, the Morozov collection was separated during the Soviet regime. Some are now housed in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, others in the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow – making their reunion all the more challenging and the show unlikely to ever come together again. Baldassari compares it to a “time machine”: visitors to Paris should not miss the chance to travel in it
The Morozov Collection. Icons of Modern Art, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, through 22 February 2022
Cover image: Paul Cézanne, Great Pine near Aix, 1895-97. Photo: State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg