Black Square Kazimir Malevich Oil on canvas, 53.5 x 53.5 cm Ca. 1932. San Petersburgo, State Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage's collections of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art largely derive from the collecting activities of two muscovite businessmen: Sergei Schukin (1854-1936) and Ivan Morozov (1871-1912). Wealthy, cultured and fascinated by modern art, both men assembled important collections in an almost parallel manner after they became acquainted with Impressionist painting during their trips to Paris. Starting with the purchase of his first Monet at the end of the nineteenth century, Schukin went on to acquire avantgarde art up to Cubism, primarily focusing on Gauguin, Picasso and Matisse, whose most important patron he became. His collection of more than two hundred works was open to the public and had a significant influence on the early Russian avant-garde movements and on artists such as Kazimir Malevich. Ivan Morozov began to acquire Impressionist paintings in the early years of the twentieth century, among them Monet's Pond at Montgeron on display here. Above all he favoured Cézanne and acquired a large number of his works including Blue Landscape. Both collections were nationalised after the Revolution and were united to create the State Museum of Western Art in Moscow. After World War II its collections were divided between the Hermitage and the Pushkin State Museum for Fine Arts in Moscow.

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