Russian Portraits: Tolstoy to Tchaikovsky
by Marianne Gray
The National Portrait Gallery in London has a once in a lifetime exhibition of portraits of the cultural titans of Russia from the late 19th Century to the early 20th Century. Never seen here before, the paintings come from the State Gallery in Moscow created by textile magnate Pavel Tretyakov.
The show comprises 26 portraits of writers, composers and actors and is packed full of names we know like Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Dostoevsky.
There are also a few women such as Modernist poet Anna Akhmatova, who modeled nude for Modigliani whilst on honeymoon with her new husband, the poet Nikolai Gumilyov, in Paris.
The portraits are bright with character, vivid with colour and rich with realism. To walk among them, with the music of the composers featured playing dramatically in the background, is very stirring. It is as if one has returned to the almost unimaginable Russian culture of radical thinkers, writers, artists and composers before it was devastated by the First World War and the Bolshevik terror. Not to be missed!
The exhibition runs until 26th June.
Booking 020 7321 6600, npg.org.uk
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin`s Place
London WC2H OHE
Modest Mussorgsky by Ilia Repin, 1881