I picked the first topic that looked interesting to me, the "The Art Museum in Sevastopol named after M. Kroshitsky," largely because I didn't understand why a museum would be named like that.
Machine translation—that was the answer to my first question. My second question, after figuring out that this museum was probably the most important collection of European art in Crimea: who was M. Kroshitsky, and what probably corrupt politics put his name on this building? The answer is not what I was expecting.
Final introductory note: Is Crimea part of Ukraine, or part of Russia? On the whole, I think Crimea is Crimea, and deserves some sort of autonomous rule. I'm not convinced that it is too late, that the indigenous population of Crimean Tatars is too diluted, or any of those arguments. In the modern world, can a small, strategically-located nation survive independently? We are in the process, I think, of finding out—for a nation of 40,000,000 people.
Mikhael Kroshitsky Sevastopol Art Museum
The M. Kroshitsky Sevastopol Art Museum is an art museum located in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
9 Nakhimova Prospect, Sevastopol
The museum is located in the center of the city, in a remarkable four story mansion with a magnificently decorated facade, built in the late 19th century by the "personal honorary citizen of Sevastopol" merchant Semyon Gavalov. After the formation of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921, the museum was opened November, 1927, for, in good Soviet spirit, "the broadest masses of the people.”
It was renamed in 1991 in honor of Mikhail Kroshitsky, museum director from 1939 to 1958, and houses an important collection of pre and post revolutionary European art.
The Sevastopol Art Museum was founded during Crimea's brief period of autonomous rule (1921-1945) following the Russian Revolution (1917) and civil war. The original collection comprised largely of artworks seized from the summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II in the Livadia Palace, as well as from the aristocratic estates that lined the southern shores of Crimea. These works were later supplemented from the collections of the State Museum Fund and museums in Moscow and Leningrad.
The War Years: WWII
The Crimea was an arena of intense conflict during World War II. Many museum collections (and other cultural treasures) were destroyed during the chaos of the hostilities, including that of the Simferopol Art Museum in Crimea's capital city, where almost the entire collection went up in flames.
Following the Siege of Sevastopol and an intense period of bombardment, Nazi Germans successfully overran the city, leaving only 11 buildings undamaged. The beautiful Gavalov mansion did not survive unscathed, but its collection, in an act of quixotic wartime heroism, was saved, owing to the efforts of its then director, Mikhael Kroshitsky.
Because of its strategic location, Sevastopol was designated a closed city following WWII, requiring non-residents to apply for permits in order to visit. This had a strong impact on the culture of the city even within Crimea, suppressing opportunity for growth and development—while simultaneously amplifying the importance of the Art Museum's survival.
Following Ukraine's emergence as an independent state, Kroshitsky's efforts were recognized with the Museum's re-dedication in his name.
"In the autumn of 1991, on November 27, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a resolution agreeing: <<To accept the proposal of the Sevastopol City Executive Committee to name Sevastopol Art Museum, MP Kroshitsky Sevastopol Art Museum, for the Honored Artist of the USSR Kroshitsky, MP.>>"
This re-dedication was the result of decades of appeals by the Sevastopol public. At the museum, the victory was celebrated with a gala evening, together with a special exhibition of works, documents and heirlooms from the Kroshitsky family.
For the next 23 years, the museum experienced advances in its collections and in its ability to interact and exchange work with other museums internationally. In 2012, the museum for the first time joined the European Night of Museums.
The Sevastopol collection comprises more than ten thousand works of art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, graphic and printed media works.
The permanent collection displays original masterpieces from the Renaissance and the Dutch Golden Age as well as paintings by French and German masters and Russian artists from the 16th to the 21st centuries. The art is organized into three collections: Western European Art; Art of the Russian Empire of the 18th—early 20th centuries; and Soviet, or more specifically Crimean, Art of the 20th century. The museum offers new and rotating exhibitions on a monthly basis. As of 2022, the Gavalov Mansion is under renovation and interior modernization, and the collection is housed on a temporary basis in space at 70 General Ostryakov Avenue.
Western European Art
These pieces represents the earliest part of the museum collection, including art from the estates of Prince LS Golitsyn, Prince Baryatinsky, Prince A.N. Witmer, and P.A. Demidov (the last owner of Vishnevetsky Castle). It includes Dutch and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century, works of the Italian Renaissance, French artists of the XVII-XIX centuries, Meissen porcelain and Western European bronzes.
The provenance of at least one of the pictures below was Nicholas II's collection at the Lividia Summer Palace, and formerly hung at the the Hermitage in Russia. Any guesses?
Also substantially a part of the museum's early collection, these works convey a sense of Russian Imperial culture at the time when the Tsar and his court routinely retired to Crimea for the winter months. Several types of work are included:
- Landscapes: including works by Ivan Aivazovsky, Arkip Kuindzhi, Isaac Levitan, (a personal favorite!) I.I. Shishkina, F.A. Vasilyeva, Vasily Polenov, S.I. Vasilkovsky, I.P. Pokhitonova, K.A. Korovina, I.E. Grabar, K.F. Bogaevsky.
- Portraits: V.A. Tropinina, I.N. Kramskoy, Ilya Repin.
- Genre paintings by V.E. Makovsky, N.A. Kasatkina, Vasily Vereshchagin.
Works of painting, graphics, sculpture and arts and crafts of the 20th and 21st centuries make up two-thirds of the collections of the Sevastopol Art Museum.
These works include pieces by: A. V. Kuprin, P. P. Konchalovsky, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, I. E. Grabar, K. F. Yuon, I. I. Brodsky, A. A. Deineka, G. G. Nissky, E. S. Zernova, along with the works of Ukrainian painters: T. N. Yablonska, A. M. Kashshay, N P. Hlushchenko and others. Not a list of artists with whom I am familiar.
While working on the initial draft of this piece for Wikipedia, I admittedly ignored the museum's collection of Soviet Art. For this, I had several reasons, the first being is that it is highly unrewarding to work on any subject in Wikipedia where your principal subect did not die before 1951 ("fair use" be damned, seventy years dead is pretty much the international copyright limit for any author or artist, insofar as the Wiki Institutions is concerned).
The other reason was that I assumed that the collection itself would not be interesting. Well, I am suitably chastened! True, this was the least interesting section insofar as the official descriptions on the Museum's website were giving me clues. In the listings for artists such as Soviet Belorussian-born Georgy Nissky ("founder of the so-called severe style, the master of the industrial landscape"), I found little that was unfamiliar.
But then, suddenly, lyrically, there were the paintings of the Crimean artists, suffused with an exotic (to me) bleaching, golden light.
If you click and open any of the galleries above, to look at the painings at larger scale—I hope you will choose this one, and see for yourself what you think.
The closing statement of the M. Kroshitsky Sevastopol Art Museum's history webpage currently reads—translated here from the original Russian--
"Let's dream! And be sure to preserve the eternal values of art."