Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat...or Pushkin?

Happy Hallowe'en everyone! On the metro ride home tonight I saw a few people dressed up in costumes (zombie, cat, witch) but that has been it for any Hallowe'en cheer today. On friday I watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" with my teen classes - such a cute movie! We all brought in candy and juice and I wore this witch's hat I found in my flat. It was a fun little Hallowe'en party, but I've got to say past Hallowe'ens in Canada have been a lot better. My housemates and I threw two awesome Hallowe'en parties the last two years of uni, and I'm feeling very nostalgic remembering them tonight. On the other hand, I DID get to go to a really cool musuem tonight, the Pushkin Musuem of Fine Art. I met a friend at Kropotkinskaya on the red line, and we walked the short distance (about ten minutes) to the musuem, which is directly opposite the gorgeous, golden-domed Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. In the early evening dusk, as the sun went down over the Moskva river, the domes appeared to be on fire. The Cathedral is the tallest Orthodox church in the world, and is a very impressive sight. Later, after the musuem, we walked along the bridge that leads to the church. It reminded me of the Taj Mahal, with its ornate, Eastern-style architecture that is so unlike anything I have ever seen.

Not the greatest pic of the cathedral (this was taken the night I did the Nike run back in September)

Here is a better one, taken from a river cruise on the Moskva River last weekend

Its absolutely breath-taking, especially when you're standing on the square next to it and just looking up at those brilliant gold domes (or "Dairy Queen swirls" as an Orthodox priest I met in London once described the distinct style of architecture!). During the USSR era, Stalin blew the cathedral up and tried to turn it into the Palace of the Soviets, but lack of funds and the outbreak of WWII put a damper on his grandiloquent schemes. During the Krushchev period, the empty foundation hole was actually turned into the world's largest open air swimming pool. Finally, in 1990, permission was given by the failing Soviet government to the Russian Orthodox Church to begin reconstruction of the cathedral, and now it has come full-circle.

Ok, back to the Pushkin was built in 1912, although it was originally named after the Tsar Alexander III rather than Russia's most famous poet (it wasn't until the centenary of Pushkin's death, in 1937, that his name was given to the musuem). The raison d'etre for the musuem? Professor Ivan Tsvetaev (the father of the famous Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva) was convinced that Moscow desperately needed a fine arts musuem to parallel the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The building is very neo-Classical, with huge marble pillars and lush foliage and landscaping.

We walked in through the entrance and paid for tickets - 300 roubles each, although if we had been students, it was only 150 roubles (next time I go, I think I'll bring my student card even though sadly, I am no longer a student - such a weird thought!). 300 roubles isn't bad though, about $10. The woman working at the ticket booth spoke English as well as Russian, which was nice especially since we got kind of confused at the start. Before you enter the musuem proper, you have to go into the garde-robe and check your coat and any bags that are over 25x30cm.

After we figured that out, we toured the musuem. It was about 5:00pm when we arrived, and it closed at 7:00, but it gave us enough time to really see a few exhibits in great detail. I'm definitely going to go back, as I didn't get to see the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists (they're housed in a separate building next door) and Cezanne is one of my all-time favourite artists. I read in my tour book that they have a few of his landscapes of Mount Ste-Victoire!! There are also several Monets and Manets, as well as works by Degas, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso.

The area of the musuem we toured tonight was mostly Classical (Greek and Roman statues) and Byzantine, which was really cool! The icons were gorgeous - such vibrant, deep, and rich colours. The saints depicted in the icons are much more mournful-looking than Western portrayals of saints, and I noticed that so much emotion is depicted in their eyes. I really want to learn more about the history of icons in Russian Orthodoxy.

There was also an exhibit currently on, featuring paintings by Armenian artists. That was really interesting as I know very little about Armenia, besides the fact that there was a genocide of the Armenians by the Turks. The paintings were beautiful, particularly one that was of a violent storm. It reminded me of this work, a favourite of mine called The Monk by the Sea by the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich:

There's something I just love about paintings that capture the beauty and turbulence of Mother Nature, and this painting just captivates me. The colours, the violence of the storm and the relative calm and repose of the monk in the face of such a vignette...the Armenian painting conjured up a similar feeling in me. I'm really happy I went to the musuem tonight; it was a fun way to spend the evening and I can't wait to go back. If you are coming to Moscow, I definitely suggest stopping by, and since its so centrally located (Red Square is a 5 minute walk away - you can see the spires of the Kremlin easily) it makes the perfect starting off point for a day of sightseeing!

1 comment:

  1. So exciting! Makes me want to pack my bags right away. I am anxious to hear about the Impressionist Gallery. I spent most of my whole visit to the Art Institute of Chicago in that new wing this past summer.