Cezanne and his Russian Followers

In 1998, an exhibition of Cezanne’s works and those of the Russian avant-garde for whom he was a guru was put up at the Hermitage and then at the Pushkin museum in St. Petersburg. In the October 13 issue of Kommersant-Vlast that year, Ekaterina Degot’ wrote an article titled ‘Russian Cezannes‘ in which she laid into the lack of intelligent curators (‘we only have senior and junior researchers, the majority of whom are restorers’) and the differentiation of art into Western and Russian that served only to obscure the deep interconnections between the two. She said that Russian museums were reluctant to exhibit Cezanne alongside his Russian followers for fear that he would annihilate them. Too heavy and too long was the iron curtain in the brains of the museum trustees, she added, twisting the dagger a bit deeper.

All stirring stuff, no doubt. But for us, the art is more important than polemics!

There were 102 paintings on display of which 52 were Cezanne’s, the rest from the likes of Goncharova, Falk, Larionov, Tatlin, Petrov-Vodkin, Malevich, Mashkov and Osmerkin.

To set the scene, consider this Cezanne painting.

The Smoker, by Paul Cezanne. (1890-92).

Now check out this one by Sergei Gerasimov.

Peasant with cap, by Sergei Gerasimov. (1925).

Peasant with cap, by Sergei Gerasimov. (1925).

And this one, by Natalia Goncharova.

The Smoker, by Natalia Goncharova. (1911).

Or how about this, by Alexey Morgunov? Cezanne may have been puzzled by it, but Malevich loved it.

Portrait of a Man, by Alexei Morgunov. (Early 1910s).

Portrait of a Man, by Alexei Morgunov. (Early 1910s).

And, finally, this one by Robert Falk.

Old man, by Robert Falk. (1913).

Old man, by Robert Falk. (1913).

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