Wednesday, August 06, 2008

5 masterpieces - #3 1913 at the Hermitage

for a time in the late 90s, i had a very cool occasional job. i traveled with wealthy retired alumni association members from alumni associations like stanford and harvard. i wasn't a tour guide, but more a tour coordinator--making sure everything went smoothly and that hotels and transport were up to expectations. 

one of those trips was to st. petersburg. since these were VERY high end trips, the groups got to do things like get into the hermitage museum in st. petersburg 2 hours before the masses were let in at official opening time. and since i was responsible for it all going smoothly, it meant i also got to go along. (yes, this is going to be about having paintings to oneself, again, again.)

let me say that i have a strange thing for the decade of 1910-19 in general and for 1913 in particular. it's when i would most have loved to be alive and in my twenties. in my occasional interest for reincarnation, it has occurred to me that perhaps i WAS alive and in my 20s then and that's where my fascination originates, but it's hard to say.

but, that's why it was especially moving for me to be able to stand before these paintings, breathing them in, emotions washing over me as i gazed at them, greedily absorbing them in the privileged situation of having them all to myself. i give you three fantastic paintings from 1913...

composition VI (1913)
vassily kandinsky

landscape (1913)
vassily kandinsky

arab coffeehouse (1913)
henri matisse

i've realized several things doing this assignment:
  1. it means perhaps an inordinate amount to me to have fabulous paintings all to myself, to have the quiet to absorb them without interruption and especially without sharing the experience with anyone else.
  2. this has ended up being only about paintings and i had used the word "masterpiece" so that it would include books and an ancient ruin or two, but paintings have come forward in my mind.
  3. i am eternally surprised where my writing takes me.
  4. the hermitage has an awesome digital collection of their works online.
  5. i need to get back to russia. it's been almost ten years!
  6. i hear paintings as if they were music.


Barb said...

I just love the Kandinsky. In fact I have a reproduction of Composition VI hanging in my family room which I just adore. May not be the real deal, but I love it all the same. B

tangobaby said...

Oh jeez. Swoon. This post is incredible. That is so amazing how you got to be in the museum like that before it opened, before the crowds.

I know in person that these paintings must have been mind-blowingly gorgeous. I love that first Kandinsky.

Not that it's funny (but it's not surprising) but I have a quote clipped from the NY Times that's been on my refrigerator for years. As heard between a male American tourist and his tourguide in Russia about the Hermitage: "So, is there anything worth seeing in there?"

I think you should go back to Russia, and TAKE ME WITH YOU.

studio wellspring said...

fantastic post! composition vi is one of my fave kandinsky's too. he was a genius. i've always wanted to go to when you go i hope you'll blog a ton about it so i can live vicariously.

Elizabeth said...

never knew you liked kandinsky. in my younger days, a looong time ago, i had a poster hanging in my room and in my hometown i went to a pub called kandinsky with even more reproductions. now i envy you a little bit because you have seen the real thing.