[Arch Framing Statue on Tall Column - The Logo of the Canadian Friends of the Hermitage]
Canadian Friends of the Hermitage
Amis canadiens de l'Ermitage
Fall 2001 Volume II, Number 4
ISSN 1497-8865
National Office, 280 Metcalfe Street, Suite 400
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1R7   613-236-1116

"Although an aristocrat and a snob, the Hermitage is the most democratic of museums, one where everyone finds something for his or her self… inexhaustible and generous to those who love it…" Mikhail Petrovsky, Director of the Hermitage

[Graphic of a person with big royal style cloak framing the words Saint Petersburg]The Hermitage is the largest public museum and art gallery in Russia and one of the most important in the world. It takes its name from a pleasure pavilion called the 'Little Hermitage' adjoining the Winter Palace, built to the order of Catherine the Great in 1764-67 for the display of her treasures. In 1787 this was incorporated in a new building (the Old Hermitage).

Catherine was one of the most voracious collectors of all time, and, at her death in 1796, the imperial collections were estimated to total nearly 4,000 pictures.

From 1802 pictures by Russian artists began to be added to the imperial collections. In 1837 the Winter Palace was ravaged by fire and in 1852 Nicholas I opened the New Hermitage to the public. Although Nicholas sold over 1,200 pictures in 1853, the collection continued to grow, doubling the number of its pictures between 1910 and 1932, despite extensive sales by the Soviets (after the Russian Revolution in 1917 the imperial collections came into public ownership).

[The Old Hermitagein 1780]According to Hermitage publicity, "The representation of Western painting is rich in virtually every period and school." There is "the largest collection of seventeenth century Dutch painting in the world" and "almost all the great figures of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."

After the Revolution, the Collection was much enlarged by the addition of nationalised private collections.

"It is," reports one visitor, "a vast repository of global culture and a history of Russian taste."

According to the publicity, "For more than 200 years, the State Hermitage Museum has survived wars and sieges, conflict and revolution. That the artworks have survived these clashes is even more miraculous; during the Second World War, paintings, porcelains, drawings, gems and fine furniture were subject to conditions that should have spelled the end of the vast collection, yet almost everything survived."

Director Iosif Orbeli ordered the great museum emptied on June 23, 1941, the day after the first invasion by Hitler, starting the Siege of Leningrad. More than 1.5 million works were packed during a six-day marathon by staff and volunteers, which included artists and historians from across Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Masterpieces were removed from their frames, which were left hanging on the walls in the hopes that this would speed reinstallation of the works after the war. Small canvases were packed 20 to 60 to a crate, while large ones were placed up to 15 on a roller, with tissue paper between them, a practice which would never have been condoned were it not a wartime emergency. Porcelain was filled with sand or crumbled cork, and buried, while the wax figure of Peter the Great was dismantled and the wooden body, arms and legs were packed separately from the wax head, feet and hands.
The Bulletin is now published in separate French and English editions; please contact the office if you have a preference for a particular version.

Transported to Sverdlovsk on two trains, some 1,500 miles from Leningrad, the elite of the Hermitage collection spent the next 900 days in the local museum, a church, the Anti-Religious Museum and the house where Nicholas II's family had died. Vigilant museum staff were on permanent watch for fire and any other possible dangers.

"Despite the dangers faced by the collection - the wartime travel of 1,500 miles and the bombs, shells, ice and flooding the works that remained behind in the Hermitage suffered - the Hermitage opened on November 8, 1944, with an exhibition of the works that had not been evacuated."

"Canada's School Net" has recently linked to "The State Hermitage Museum" Website
by Judith Parkes
This linkage brings textual and visual information on the Hermitage Museum and its contents, to school students and teachers across Canada.

The Federal Government (specifically, Industry Canada) has funded a web site, called Canada's School Net, to provide students and teachers with on-line data for training and research in many curriculum areas. The site now consists of more than 1000 contacts for educational services and resources. The first goal of the project was to connect all Canadian schools (both elementary and secondary) to the Internet. Secondly, students and teachers are encouraged to use the resources provided for projects, test information, virtual tours and creative lesson plans.

The Canadian Friends of the Hermitage arranged for information that originated at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, to be added to the School Net web site. The history and contents described will become a useful educational resource. As well as promotion of skills in Internet research and communication, this new computer linkage will increase a widespread Canadian student familiarity with, and hopefully, an interest in, the treasures of The Hermitage Museum.

Thus, "The Hermitage" has joined a website which aims to provide "'the best educational content on the web". The link can be found at SchoolNet's Learning Resources Table of Contents http://www.schoolnet.ca/home/e/resources/ and selecting the "Art" page under Curriculum Areas. The Art Gallery is a sub-page under Art/Visual Arts.

A new multi-year project is underway at the Hermitage to publish an illustrated book on The History of World Culture in the Hermitage Collection for use as a textbook in schools, as a museum guide, and as an Internet-based guide to the Museum's resources. The Project includes a translation of the publication into English and French.

Our Other Friends…

On 22 October 1996, Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum, announced the idea of organising a local Friends society — the first in Russia - at St. Petersburg. "Since 1997," says the press release, "the Hermitage Friends' Club has been functioning successfully, to combine individual and corporate membership."

The Hermitage Friends in the Netherlands Foundation was founded in 1994. Its biggest fund-raising campaigns have been the New Roof and Lighting for the Rembrandt Room (1998) and New Roof and Lighting for the Dutch Masters (2000).

These projects, worth 1 million US dollars each, enabled the Hermitage to repair the roofs over the Rembrandt Gallery and the Dutch Masters Galleries as well as to restore the galleries themselves and install new lighting equipment.

The American Friends of the State Hermitage Museum was Founded in 1995. It sponsors public education and fund-raising programmes in the United States in support of the Hermitage museum. Among its activities are Hermitage Thursdays (meetings with Hermitage curators), an annual lecture given by Professor Piotrovsky in New York, and benefit dinners and receptions. There are trips to St. Petersburg featuring the Monday in the Hermitage special programmes in the museum. The money raised goes to the Hermitage's development projects.

State Hermitage Museum in Russia to Present an Exhibit From the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2002

[Engraving of a woman standing and writing]On July 9, the Minister of Canadian Heritage Sheila Copps announced that a major Canadian art exhibit will appear in 2002 at the State Hermitage Museum in Russia. The Art Gallery of Ontario exhibition, entitled Land of Promise: The North in Canadian Art, is part of an ongoing exchange made possible in part by the Canada Travelling Exhibits Indemnification Program.

Sheila Copps said: "This exhibit from the Art Gallery of Ontario will feature some extraordinary paintings by the Group of Seven, Inuit art, and leading edge works from Canadian contemporary artists. It will mark the first time ever that historical, Inuit and contemporary art will be shown together outside Canada."

This complements the Art Gallery of Ontario's exhibit entitled Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, Russia: Rubens and His Age, which was held from May to August 12, 2001. The Art Gallery of Ontario was the only venue for this exhibit which featured Old Master paintings, drawings and decorative arts that are among the treasures of the Hermitage. It was the first time the Hermitage Museum had created an exhibit exclusively for a Canadian audience.

"An exchange of this calibre between museums is a wonderful example of how, working together, our countries can ensure that Canadians and Russians alike have access to the best art in the world," added Sheila Copps.

Ottawa Chapter News

"IMAGES" …in Ottawa…

Saturday Morning Lectures with Connections to The Hermitage

  • September 29: The Golden Age of Dutch Painting with Mary Nash, a docent at the National Gallery. Her own heritage has led her to study Dutch art in depth.
  • October 13: Catherine the Great's Collection of Decorative Art, presented by Christina Corsiglia, Curator of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
  • October 27: Lorenzo Lotto and Chardin — a guided talk by Ruth Wilson, Senior Docent at the National Gallery.
  • November 10: Icons: Development and Impressions offered by Agnes Beckett, head docent at the National Gallery
  • November 17: Matisse, another of Rina Wright's lively presentations. Rina is a docent at The Gallery

The lectures will take place at 11am at the National Library, except for the lecture on October 27th, which will be held at the National Gallery of Canada. The discounted cost for the full series (to members only) is $30, and $10 for a single lecture. Admission for non-members is $15 for each lecture.

To order the series or individual tickets, please contact the Ottawa office at 613-236-1116
Hermitage Day is celebrated at the Hermitage Museum on Catherine the Great's name day November 25.

In Ottawa - Tuesday, December 4th
Circle this Date!!!

This is when we celebrate Hermitage Day with a convivial dinner at the Chelsea Club. Last year's dinner at the Amber Garden Restaurant was sold out, so reserve your tickets early!
This year we will be able to mix and mingle during a reception before we sit down to a tasty dinner. The menu has again been designed on a Russian theme.
There will be door prizes and a silent auction.

The Chelsea Club is conveniently located at Metcalfe and Somerset Streets. Tickets are $45 for members and one non-member guest per member; tickets for additional non-members are priced at $55 each. You can reserve tickets and tables by telephoning our office at 236-1116.

Copies of Mr. J-M. Joly's presentation on June 16 at the National Library on "St. Petersburg and the Hermitage" are available at the National Office for $2 a copy (20pp).

Toronto Chapter News

by Joan McNabb, President

You are all welcome to visit our office in the George Brown House — a heritage site - at 50 Baldwin Street (ON M5T 1L4), but please call first: (416) 979-0932
In Toronto on Wednesday December 5th, at 6:30pm, Celebrate Hermitage Day with a traditional Russian Dinner — an opportunity to meet other Friends of the Hermitage and try a variety of Russian dishes in festive surroundings.
Location: The Badminton and Racket Club,
25 St. Clair Ave., West.

The glory of "Rubens and His Age", which has been on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario all summer, has inspired many new and enthusiastic Friends to join the Toronto Chapter. A member survey is going out this month, so please take the time to complete and return it with your comments and suggestions. With it, we shall send a complete programme list, with the venues of our Winter lectures.

The Toronto Programme for Fall and Winter Activities: We have planned three evening lectures and one special event each season, always with a connection to The Hermitage or Russia. All lectures will start at 7:00pm, following a Reception at 6:15pm.
  • On September 19, we start with an illustrated talk by Christine Corsiglia, Curator of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. "The Hermitage Museum: Royal Architectural Patronage for the Arts" will present the history of the Hermitage Museum from the outside in - beginning with an overview of the various building campaigns during the 18th and 19th centuries as the Museum progressed down the Neva River with a succession of European architects. There will then be an in-depth look at the interiors of this remarkable suite of buildings, with a focus on the galleries as they appear to-day.
    Location: Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
  • On October 18, Professor Kenneth Bartlett, of the Renaissance Study Programme at the University of Toronto, will speak on The Recent Discovery of Two Renaissance Paintings.
    Location: The Town Hall, Innis College, University of Toronto, 2 Sussex Ave. at St. George.
  • On November 5, Mr. Robert Kaszanits, President of the State Hermitage Museum Foundation of Canada will speak on "A Canadian Challenge: The Hermitage Inventory Project".
    Location: The Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

The Winter Season (the dates and venues will appear in the next Bulletin):

In January, Her Excellency Anne Leahy, the former Canadian Ambassador to Russia will speak to us on The Hermitage and its place in 21st Century Russia.

In February, Dennis Reid, Chief Curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, will describe the Exhibit of Canadian Art travelling from the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Hermitage in June 2002

In March, Michael Parke-Taylor, Associate Curator of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, will speak on the exhibit of Impressionist and Post Impressionist Art coming from the Hermitage to Toronto and Montreal in the Fall of 2002.

On May 16, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting an all Russian programme at Massey Hall. The conductor is Gennady Rozhdestvansky, with pianist Viktoria Postnikova, and music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Schnittke and Rachmaninoff. There are special prices for Canadian Friends of the Hermitage, with a reception after the concert to meet the artists.

The Canadian Friends of the Hermitage National Executive Committee
Doris M Smith (President); Judith Parkes (Vice-President)
Nancy Scarth (Secretary); David Wait (Treasurer)
Members at Large: Tamara Galko, Jean-Marie Joly, Paul Marland (Editor: Bulletin)
Charitable Registration under the State Hermitage Museum Foundation of Canada
#87879 9865 RR0001

from The Fresh Guide to Saint Petersburg 2001…

THE CITY CENTER is packed full of architectural and cultural wonders with enough palaces, museums, and sights to overwhelm even the hungriest of culture-vultures. The Hermitage, of course, is the crème de la crème, pièce de résistance, and huevos rancheros of Petersburg's museum scene as well as the largest tourist attraction in the city, plus there are plenty of other museums covering a wide variety of topics and interests.

[Old St. Petersburg Nevsky Prospect Street Scene]
Old St. Petersburg - Nevsky Prospect: 1900

Unfortunately several lesser-known museums are closing, some due to lack of interest and funding (like the Communications Museum), others (such as the Central Lenin Museum and the History of the Young Communist League Museum) for ideological reasons. And for all those agrogeologists out there, we regret to announce that the Soil Science Museum is closed for repairs, and in response to our inquiry as to a proposed re-opening date they laughed before hanging up on us.

There are literally a zillion things to see in the Hermitage and it is well worth making more than one visit. People who try to see everything in one day will end up staggering out with smoke pouring from their ears, sore legs from the incredible distances covered, and their minds a blur of Rembrandts, medieval armored horses, and Egyptian mummies.

The overwhelming museumness of the place is all the more enhanced by the incredible splendor of the buildings, inside and out: ornate and regal façades; huge frescoed halls; marble, wood, and mosaic floors; and statuettes, figurines, and antique furniture scattered about like sacks of potatoes at harvest time, all on such a grand scale that it boggles the mind.

The Hermitage can be a tricky museum to navigate. As a general rule, when things must be closed the museum authorities make an effort to keep the most popular stuff (European art from the 15th to the 20th century) open at the expense of the more obscure exhibits (the burial mounds of Solokha and Chertomlyk). The surest way to find anything in particular is to ask one of the supervisors who sit and watch the rooms. They don't speak English, but saying the name of the artist will be sufficient to have him or her point you in the right direction.

Most of the noteworthy rooms are located in the Winter Palace where the fun begins with the Main Staircase (a.k.a. the Jordan Staircase), a menagerie of marble, alabaster statues, gilt, mirrors, and tourists assuming bizarre positions in a quest to find the perfect camera angle. From the staircase you can either go straight ahead to the three State Rooms (the Antechamber, the Great Hall [or Ballroom], and the Concert Hall), or left into the Field Marshal Hall that holds a recently restored carriage bought by Peter I in Paris in 1716.