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“An Imperial Collection:
Women Artists from the
State Hermitage Museum”

Frye Art Museum Gallery
Seattle WA Thru Nov 30, 2003

Angela Kauffman - Venus Persuading Helen to Accept the Love of Paris
Angelica Kauffman, Venus Persuading Helen to Accept the Love of Paris (1790), oil on canvas [Frye Art Museum Gallery, Seattle, WA, Thru Nov 30, 2003]

Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA thru Nov 30 Unlike many European courts in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Russian imperial families and nobility were very supportive of women artists. An extensive collection of works by women artists are in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. A selection has traveled to the U.S. and is on rare public display at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum. Appropriately, the exhibition coincides with the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, a city founded to modernize Russia.

The “Imperial Collection” features paintings, sculptures and watercolours by fifteen Western European women. Some never resided in Russia, but provided significant contributions to the cultural history of the country. Social reforms at the time included an approach to painting that was not dictated by the church. Portraiture, mythological and classical works such as Angelica Kauffman’s “Venus Persuading Helen to Accept the Love of Paris” were commissioned by royalty.

With the reign of Catherine the Great, European artists like Rembrandt and Reubens also were collected by the Russians. This influenced many women to paint for Russian patrons. For example, French artist, Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun and Christina Robertson of Scotland both spent a great deal of time in Russia and received prestigious painting commissions. They were made members of the Imperial Academy of Arts, an honour for women artists. French sculptor Marie-Anne Collot also worked in Russia producing busts for the elite, as well as a statue of St. Petersburg’s founding Czar, Peter I.

In conjunction with the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., the Frye has prepared a series of lectures, music and poetry to accompany the exhibit.

© Allyn Cantor

 Wed, Sep 3, 2003