The Eye of the Collector

"A collector is, in the end, a person who exchanges money for art, trusting either his own eye or the eye of an adviser", mused author Julian Barnes in his recent article as he visited the exhibition of works of art from the Shchukin Collection at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris which runs until 20th February 2017.

"Icons of Modern Art" is an exhibition of works of art accumulated by the Russian art collector, Sergei Shchukin, who was one of the greatest collectors of art of the early 20th Century. The exhibition is part of the Franco-Russian year of Culture in France. This visionary Russian Collector of French modern art is little known to the general western public and has never before been gathered together as a singular and coherent artistic entity.

The exhibition shows 130 masterpieces by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modern masters from the Shchukin Collection.  In the early 20th Century, Shchukin bought Impressionists and post-Impressionists and had 8 Cézannes, 16 Gauguins, 42 Matisses, 51 Picassos, as well as works by the Fauves. These paintings have had a politicised life for the last century. In 1918 Lenin signed a decree nationalising the collection, and they were put into Moscow's State Museum of Modern Western Art. The museum shut down in 1939 and in 1948 Stalin signed a decree abolishing it.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation shows the top selection of his pictures. Matisse is reported to have said at the time:

"Shchukin started buying my work in 1906, at a time when few people in France knew who I was. They say there are artists whose eye is infallible. This was the case with Shchukin. Even though he was a merchant rather than an artist. He always chose the best."

Details about the exhibition:

To read the article by Julian Barnes: