The Hermitage is
one of the very few on the Continent which contains a special section for
landscape painting and satire art in which England excelled , are represented
by a number of first-class paintings and prints executed by the most
outstanding artists of British School, mainly of the 18th century. A number of
17th-19th century works are on show too. There are also some notable specimens
of applied art, among which is a fine group of objects in silver and Wedgwood
potteryware . English paintings of the 17th century are extremely rare outside
England.The Hermitage possesses several works of this period. These are: the
Portrait of Oliver Cromwell by Robert Walker, two portraits by Peter Lely, of
which the «Portrait of a Woman» reveals the artist’s sense of colour to great
advantage; also the «Portrait of Grinling Gibbons» by Godfrey Kneller, to name
only the most outstanding canvases.
The collection has
no paintings by William Hogarth, but some of his prints selected from a large
and representative collection possessed by the Museum are usually on show.
Joshua Reynolds is
represented by four canvases all painted in the 1780-s.
example of his late work is the «Infant Hercules strangling the Serpents»,
which is an allegory of the youthful Russia vanquishing her enemies. The
picture was commissioned from Reynolds by Catherine II, and was brought to
in 1789. In 1891
two other canvases were sent by Reynolds to Russia. One was the «Continence of
Scepic Africanus» , which , as well as the «Infant Hercules», reveals
Reynolds’s conception of the grand style in art. The other was «Venus and
Cupid»; presumably representing Lady Hamilton .This is one of the versions of
the piсture entitled «The Snake in
the Grass», owned by the National Gallery, London
Reynolds’s «Girl at
a window» is a copy with slight modifications, from Rembrandt’s canvas bearing
the same title, and owned by the Dulwich Gallery. It may be regarded as an
example of Reynolds’s study of the «old masters’» works.
A fair idea of the
British artists’ achievements in the field of portrait painting can be gained
from the canvases by George Romney Thomas Gainsborough, John Opie, Henry
Rdeburn, John Hoppner and John Russell, all marked by a vividness of expression
and brilliance of execution typical of the British School of portrait painting
in the days when it had achieved a national tradition. Highly important is
Gainsborough’s superb «Portrait of the Duchess of Beaufort» painted in a loose
and most effective manner characteristic of his art in the late 1770’s. For
charm of expression and brilliance of execution, it ranks among the
masterpieces of the Museum.The «Tron Forge» by Joseph Wright of Derby is an
interesting example of a new subject in English18th century art: the theme of
labour and industry, which merged in the days of the Industrial Revolution.
The few paintings
of importance belonging to the British school of the 19th century include a
landscape ascribed to John Constable; the «Boats at a shore» by Richard Parkers
Bonington; the «Portrait of an old woman» by David Wilki, three portraits by
Thomas Lawrence and portraits by George Daive, of which the unfinished
«Portrait of the Admiral Shishkov» is the most impressive.
The collection was
largely formed at the beginning of the 20th century, a great part of it
deriving from the Khitrovo collection bequeathed to the Museum in 1916.
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