I had booked from Paris to see the Cranach exhibition which had started quite recently, but booking on-line was not possible for the From Russia exhibition, which attracted crowds.
So when at the Royal Academy of Arts to see the Cranachs, I bought a ticket for the From Russia and saw it on on the following day.
This exhibition will be a unique opportunity to explore the fascinating exchange that existed between French and Russian art during a crucial period that was witness to upheaval and revolution. All the paintings have been lent by the four principal Russian museums: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and The State Hermitage Museum and The State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. For the first time, works from these museums have been gathered for a single exhibition.
I found it difficult to follow the links between the paintings, mostly because of my lack of pictural culture. But it was great to see a painting like The Dance by Matisse in the flesh, so to speak 😉 or Gauguin‘s Vairaumati Tei Oa (Her Name was Vairaumati).
My favourites were definitely Chagall‘s Promenade and Nathan Altman‘s Portrait of Anna Akhmatova (honestly, I didn’t even know the name of Altman, before I went to that exhibition).
But I enjoyed the Cranach exhibition much more. Not that I knew more about Cranach than I did about modern painting, but somehow, I found it easier to understand. In fact, I like one-artist retrospectives. One has time to get familiar with the paintings, to see a relationship between them.
As the exhibition booklet puts it, Cranach…
… was one of the most versatile artists of the Renaissance, court artist to the Saxon electors, a staunch supporter of the Reformation, and a close friend of Martin Luther. During the course of his long career, Cranach created striking portraits and expressive devotional works, propaganda for the Protestant cause, as well as his own brand of erotic female nude and inventive treatments of biblical, mythological and classical subjects.
At one point, I noticed that in practically every painting, except for the portraits, there was someone, be it a human or an animal that was looking straight at you. So I walked through the rooms again to find the watching eye 😉
I found the nudes just lovely, like the Venus shown on the exhibition poster, which apparently was found “too risqué for London Underground“, 😉 or Adam and Eve.
The Cranach is on till the end of June, but From Russia stops middle of April.