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Culture news, 10.10.2005 14:44

A Priceless Gift. Dedicated to the Memory of Lydia Delektorskaya.

lydia_delektorskaya 4 October 2005 - 15 January 2006

The exhibition in the Twelve Column Hall of the New Hermitage displays more than 100 exhibits from the museum collection. For 22 years, from 1932 to 1954, Lydia Delektorskaya (1910, Ňîmsk - 1998, Paris) was the secretary of the great 20th century French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954). As a devoted friend and assistant, she devoted her life to serving Matisse and was the inspiration for many of his works. Delektorskaya's face was captured in oil paintings, drawings and printed graphics. The exhibits which Lydia Delektorskaya gave to the Hermitage - paintings, drawings, lithographs, art books and sculpture - have extraordinarily enriched the collection of works by Henri Matisse.

These gifts were considered by Delektorskaya as a tribute to the memory of Matisse. She wished to make the collectionof works by the artist in the Hermitage more complete and diverse. Thanks to Delektorskaya, the Hermitage became the owner of 26 finished easel sheets by Matisse, which for the first time made it possible to compare the two main facets of his work - drawings and painting.

The museum's collection possesses all the varieties of Matisse's graphic art, including nature studies, his typical initial studies of faces and figures of his models, still-lifes, nudes, quick outlines of characteristic poses, and sketches for book illustrations.

Matisse's favorite genre was the portrait. The artist didn't aim for variety in selecting his models: his choice was based solely on the expressiveness of their faces.

Beginning in 1965, Delektorskaya gave the Hermitage drawings, sculptures and also books which were illustrated and designed by Matisse. These were so-called art books (livre d'art) which were issued in small editions. The uniqueness of the Hermitage's collection of these books lies not only in the completeness but also in the fact that most of the title pages of the books Matisse presented to Delektorskaya are decorated with drawings and bear Matisse's autograph, sometimes together with the signature of the publisher or author. During the 1970's Delektorskaya supplemented the collection of Matisse's livres d'art with books by his famous contemporaries including Andre Derain, Juan Miro, Pablo Picasso, and Fernand Leger.

Thanks to Lydia Delektorskaya the Hermitage collection acquired two portraits painted by Matisse in 1939 and 1947 which show Delektorskaya. These are the only paintings from the late period of Matisse's work in the museum collection. Sculptures by Matisse dating form the 1920's also will attract great interest at the exhibition.

Lydia Delektorskaya gave to the Hermitage works by Henri Matisse which came not only from her personal collection. She also purchased his works at auction for the purpose of presenting them to the museum. She permitted only one way of expressing gratitude for her gifts - exhibitions at which Matisse's works were displayed.In 1985 Director of the State Hermitage Boris Piotrovsky gave Delektorskaya a permanent pass to the museum as a “research consultant.”

The exhibition A Priceless Gift pays tribute to Lydia Delektorskaya for her tireless efforts on the artist's behalf which helped him to continue his work until the end of his life in spite of his debilitating illness. It was no accident that Matisse's last drawings, made a few days before his death, were portraits of Lydia.

The curators of the exhibition are Dr. Asya Cantor-Gukovskaya, lead researcher, and Larisa Dukelskaya, senior researcher in the State Hermitage's Department of Western European Art..

A scholarly illustrated exhibition catalogue prepared under the general editorial direction of Larisa Dukelskaya has been issued by the Chisty List Publishing House in St Petersburg. It has introductory remarks by Professor Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage. Among the authors of articles for the sections on Painting, Drawings, Sculpture, Books and Engravings are Dr. Albert Kostenevich, Dr. Asya Cantor-Gukovskaya, Elena Karcheva, Larisa Dukelskaya, and Mikhail Balan, all curators in the State Hermitage's Department of Western European Art.

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