Unique art project
Which Belarus-born artists from the School of Paris have works currently worth hundreds of thousands or, even, millions of Dollars?
Marc Chagall and Chaim Soutine are already well-known to Belarusian art lovers, having belonged to the Paris School which nurtured Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Pierre Bonnard and other masters of surrealism and expressionism.
The National Art Museum of Belarus is currently showcasing around 100 works by our countrymen: Belarus-Born Artists of the School of Paris. The project is the idea of the National Commission of Belarus for UNESCO and Belgazprombank JSC, with the latter having instigated and participated in bringing the works to Belarus. The early 20th century works are the fruit of Belarus-born masters considered to have been the brightest ‘bees’ of the French ‘Beehive’. The bank spent around a year purchasing around 50 works from private collectors and famous auction houses, including Chagall’s precious Les Amoureux and Soutine’s Les grands pres a Chartres.
Alongside works from Belgazprombank’s corporate collection, the exhibition features pictures, etchings and lithographs held by private collectors from Belarus and Russia, as well as from other museums.
“Probably, each painter has their own time for discovery,” muses Svetlana Prokopieva, from the museum. “Some have to wait while others receive acknowledgment immediately and remain popular long after their death — such as well-known Marc Chagall. Chaim Soutine is also rather famous these days but Lubitch, Genin and Kikoine may be new names for some exhibition visitors. Their wave of popularity is a recent one. In total, the exhibition features 11 painters: not all Belarus-born.”
How did painters from Belarus find their way to France?
“Each master had their own reason for leaving Belarus,” continues Ms. Prokopieva. “However, most were guided by a desire to learn something new and avant-garde. Paris was a true ‘Mecca’ for artists, where they were able to feel comfortable.”
The School of Paris originated in the early 20th century and is connected with the appearance of the ‘Beehive’ (La Ruche) — where artists lived. Medici villa became such a ‘Beehive’, being purchased in 1902 by prosperous sculptor and patron of arts Alfred Boucher. It was located in the Passage Dantzig, in the centre of Paris, in an octagon shaped building with a roof resembling a Chinese hat. He organised 140 studios for painters, with Marc Chagall occupying one of the largest and lightest on the upper floor. He only charged the price of two mid-quality dinners for his monthly rental fee. This is quite understandable, as Boucher was their colleague.
The School of Paris encompassed around 1,500 painters from all over the world.