In the modern Russian language the word "Hermitage" absolutely has lost its initial meaning. As is known, in the 18th century small secluded places, hidden in the shade of parks sorrounding country houses were called so. Today the word "hermitage" is associated with a long train of ceremonial halls, filled with pieces of art, since one of world largest collections of fine arts has been named after one of such secluded corners belonging to the Russian Empress.
For this very reason the modern gallery including this word in its name have to assume the weight of those associations. On the one hand, it should be a place, where a visitor has a chance to be alone with works of art, on the other hand - it should be representative enough to satisfy modern art tastes in all their diversity and not only those of amateurs, but of experienced connoisseurs as well.
The strive to unite these functions explains this structural diversity of "The New Hermitage" gallery-museum, unusual for Moscow galleries. During several years of its existence it has organized eight different exhibitions, but only now it has an opportunity to execute the planned project in full. Apart from the antiquarian salon and the gallery proper in the new building there are special rooms permitting to execute various exhibition projects. The first exposition opening these halls today, can be considered as a kind of a program the gallery is going to implement in the near future. Its organizers intend to show the most prominent works of Russian and European painting, graphic and applied arts kept in private "hermitages" of the largest Moscow collectors.
Surely, such panorama gives a unique chance to get acquainted with magnificent and mostly unknown products. But at the same time it is rather a characteristic picture allowing to evaluate and to analyze the principles and "gustatory tastes" inherent to modern gallery and antiquarian activities.
They are known to have changed drastically. For example, recently works of avant-gardists were indisputable leaders. However, after the exhibitions of outstanding masters of the 1910-1920s of years and when the works of their contemporaries appeared on the domestic market, tastes unexpectedly started to shift. A new interest in high quality, masterly made oil paintings by Russian realist artists has sprung up, though it has never faded but existed somewhere in the periphery of gallery activities.
So, no wonder that today's exhibition combines the works by masters of the second half of the last century, of the century turn and advant-guard. And it is important not only to interpret theoretically, but also in practice to see the indivisible and continuous line of development of the domestic art tradition. The bulk of the products collected in these halls, is related in some way or another to the peculiar "Moscow" tastes of their collectors. In Moscow, the art free from too rigid academic frames has been always appreciated. Its fundamentals were roughly formed in the middle of the last century in the activity of the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture cultivating in its students the taste to immediate work from nature, the striving to convey the surrounding reality firstly by grasping its pictorial and plastic qualities. No wonder therefore, that it was Moscow where appeared national traditions of genre and landscape painting connected with the creative production of A.Savrasov, V.Polenov, V.Serov, I.Levitan and K.Korovin.
By the middle of the 1900s these traditions had become the nutrient medium to bring about new art phenomena. Most brightly they were revealed in the works of "The Jack of Diamonds"' members. The association was formed in 1910 and focused in itself the most typical features of Moscow painting. "Only Moscow with its rich and diverse colours together with its Shchukin and Morozov could give birth to "The Jack of Diamonds" with its Okhotny Ryad's cult of eatables, with its exaggerated sizes of people and things, bearing in themselves so many features of "lubok" (cheep popular prints) and street sign-boards" - noted Ya.Tugendhold, a known art historian.
Within the framework of common for all members of "The Jack of Diamonds" method there existed some rather noticeable differences. They were displayed both in the peculiarities of painting manner and in the temperament of so different artists as were A.Lentulov and R.Falk, I.Mashkov and A.Osmyorkin. These differences are conspicuously seen in comparing several works by these masters displayed at the exhibition. For example - "The Nude against the background of wallpaper" by A.Osmyorkin, the diptych by A.Lentulov and the still-life by A.Milman.
Naturally, the tradition of the Moscow school is not the only one attracting the attention of a modern gallery. Of great interest is also the art of Russian artists inspired by images of national olden times, such as M.Nesterov, V.Vasnetsov,
N.Roerich. According to a contemporary, in their fantastically beautiful art exposing "timeless nature of the national spirit the dead centuries are revived and become close, real, conspicuous... "
In this section of the exposition a special place belongs to the monumental canvas by Roerich, "The Old Men Gathering Together" (1898). For a long time it has been known only from a small sketch from the Russian museum. Right after a successful display in St. Petersburg the picture was sent to America to be shown at the exhibition and since then has never been exhibited in Russia. Now we can really experience that sombre grandeur, as experienced it the first spectators of this canvas looking at the ancient old men, who like rocks, are rooted in the native ground.
Several words about the "western" part of the exhibition. Though not numerous, it includes works created within the period from the epoch of Renaissance up to modernity and, in a sense, it outlines the galllery's future activities in this area.
Usually products of European art arrived in Russia selectively, depending on the tastes of this or that collector. Thus, for example, traditionally popular for Moscow collectors have been Old Dutch paintings, genre paintings, landscapes, still-lives with their entertaining and often moralizing narrativeness, with their finely developed colour range, smooth texture of painting.
These qualities, as is known, were estimated at their true worth by many Moscow artists, in particular by such prominent ones as V.Tropinin and P.Fedotov who applied them in their creative production.
In the section of new European art two works, exceptionally rare not only for the Russian but for the European art market as well, are worth special mentioning. They are a magnificent landscape by Sisley and a decorative composition by F.Stuck, a known representative of the Munich modern, "The Kiss of Sphynx", the artist's replica of a large canvas from the Budapest museum.
"The New Hermitage" is not going to limit its collection activities within the frameworks of painting. Other spheres of fine arts and decorative applied arts, aged Russian and European furniture, bronzes, porcelain are also of great interest for it. Special place belongs to creations related to the book art. Huge volumes with engravings and rare bibliophilic editions neighbour to ancient maps, to complete sets of "The Library of Great Writers", "The History of Russian art" by I.E.Grabar, etc. Book collecting has been always closely connected to printing graphic art. This side of the collection activities is illustrated by rare sheets engraved by Durer, Rembrandt and A. van Ostade exhibited in "The New Hermitage".
So, today "The New Hermitage" is ready to offer to museums, corporate and private collectors a great variety of Russian and Western-European art products. All the works housed in the gallery have been examined by scientific experts of the largest domestic museums, and by most authoritative specialists of Russia and Europe.