I recently blogged about the must-see sights on a St Petersburg city break, top of which was the State Hermitage Museum, unquestionably one of the finest global art institutions with a formidable collection of over three million artworks in its midst. Yet with such a massive portfolio in its possession, it does rather beg the question how does anyone view over three million pieces of art in any one visit? The answer, quite simply and rather sadly, is that you can’t, the bulk of the collection remains in storage with some 65,000 objects on display at any one time.
The good news however is that since 2009, the Dutch capital has been the fortunate host city of a satellite Hermitage museum – cunningly called the Hermitage Amsterdam – which throughout the year displays a series of temporary exhibitions on loan from its Russian big sister. Housed in the former Amstelhof building overlooking the River Amstel and formerly a care home for the elderly, the Hermitage Amsterdam opened amidst much fanfare and has welcomed a flurry of visitors keen to see some of the many, previously inaccessible treasures in its relatively short history.
Its latest offering, having literally just opened at the weekend, is an exhibition entitled “Gauguin, Bonnard, Denis: A Russian Taste for French Art”, dedicated to three great French artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Following the enormous impact of Impressionism on the worldwide scene, these three artists went in search of new artistic direction and, for a brief time, were united along with a number of other artists under the title ‘Les Nabis’, the Hebrew word for prophet.
Moving away from the Impressionist penchant for capturing the ever-changing qualities of natural light and inspired by a daring and experimental Paul Gauguin, the Nabis embraced the use of colour, feeling, symbolism and imagination in their work and as a result, soon received wide acclaim in Paris and Moscow, where a wealthy Russian collector, Ivan Morozov, quickly began buying and commissioning their work.
Running until 28th February 2014, the exhibition presents the work of the Nabis alongside that of French paintings and drawings by their predecessors, contemporaries and immediate successors, including a number of sculptures by Rodin, Maillol and Bartholomé. Situated at Amstel 51, the museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm, closed only on April 30th and December 25th. Entrance costs 15€ for adults and 5€ for children between the ages of six to 16 (free for fives and under).