Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Hermitage - my encounter with Matisse

Arta had warned me that the Hermitage was huge, and that I might want to set aside more than one day to explore it.

No doubt! It is huge. That is an understatement. It is made up of 6 buildings (Palaces), and has a collection of over 3 million items.  It is something like 32 kilometers to walk all of its halls (or so says wikipedia!) 

The Hermitage...seen from the water

a favourite book of mine
 Point in case: my favourite art book at home is this one: Impressionism and Impressionism.

I poured through this book a million times both before and after exploring the National Gallery in Washington.  I could pretty much 'check off' the paintings that I had seen there. 

I also spent time studying the pictures of paintings the book told me were held by the Hermitage, feeling pretty certain that they would be beyond my ability to ever see in person (except in the context of travelling exhibitions, perhaps). 

Matisse's "Red Room"

looking at the trees out the window

But there I was, walking the halls of the Hermitage, when I came upon the painting which graces the cover of my book! 

Seeing the painting there on the wall was such an unanticipated pleasure. 

I felt more than a bit overwhelmed, standing up beside the painting, looking more closely at different parts.

There were the trees outside the window, which left me wondering if the white was supposed to be snow, or rather blossoms like we have on the cherry trees in the Victoria springtime.
checking out the fruit
And there was the bowl of fruit on the table, the colour blends reminding of still life paintings of fruit by Cezanne. 
former "Green Room" still visible...

And you could see around the edge of the painting the 'green' that was underneath of the red.

While the painting is now known as the "Red Room", it apparently was first done with a green background.

Signature by the chair, green edge?
Later, Matisse decided that there was too much green, and he repainted portions of it to turn it from a green room to a red room.

What a treat to get up close and see the green peeking out!


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