Calendar Services Feedback Site Map Help Home Digital Collection Children & Education Hermitage History Exhibitions Collection Highlights Information




















In December 1852, Count Shuvalov, the Chief Marshal of the Court, received instructions from the Minister of the Court "to commission from Academician Konstanin Ukhtomsky and the artists Edward Hau and Luigi Premazzi pictures of the interiors of the New Hermitage rooms". Academidian Ukhtomsky, Hau and Premazzi were what was known as "perspective artists". This form of painting had a long tradition of being taught at the Academy of Arts, where from the late 18th century there had existed on a part with other classes a special class of perspective painting. The aim of the course of instruction given in this class was to teach the technical devices required to record architecture in its setting and the interiors of buildings. Preconditions for success were a mastery of the art of drawing, watercolour technique and the various methods of constructing perspective that ensured that viewers perceived the subject in the right way.

The artists' work on this official commission from Emperor Nicholas I lasted for nine years, from 1852 to 1861. During that period they produced 55 pictures of the New Hermitage. The result was a series of watercolours that was described using the French word "ouvrage". Ukhtomsky himself wrote the titles on the passe-partouts of the watercolours giving the numbers of the rooms, and also the title-page of the ouvrage. The exterior view of the New Hermitage from Millionnaya Street painted by Luigi Premazzi was joined to the set in 1861.
The watercolours produced by the artists splendidly convey the monumental character of the New Hermitage halls: the cold smoothness of the walls with protruding piers, entirely covered with artificial marble of different colours and shades; the variety of ceilings, vaulted and flat, covered with decorative painting and moulded ornament. The artists carefully presented the museum exhibits and the furnishings of the rooms. For us the watercolour views of the New Hermitage take on the significance of a documentary record of an era, as they reflect the life of the museum and its displays in the earliest years of its existence.

The watercolour views of the New Hermitage are above all splendid examples of the depiction of architecture. The works of Ukhtomsky, Hau and Premazzi are founded not on the real-life image of the room as someone would have seen it, but on a purely notional, documentary construction that served to bring out most fully its architectural features. The artists constructed perspective in pencil in the studio, using plans and drawings based on measurements taken of the rooms. They often deliberately compressed space and inserted elements (especially vaults and piers adjoining the walls) that fell outside their construction. In doing so the artists introduced some incongruities in perspective, but those do not strike someone viewing the watercolour and come to light only when the image is compared with the reality. Into the ready-made perspective view of a room the artists "inserted" objects that they had earlier drawn from life, after which the pencil composition was transferred to a fresh sheet of paper to be worked on in colour. The concluding stage, again performed in the studio, was the application of watercolours using the colour wash technique that involved repeatedly covering both the whole sheet and individual areas and details in layers of colour, gradually increasing the tonal intensity of the whole image. This technique required great skill and experience, a fine sense of colour and a wide range of technical accomplishments.

There is a certain similarity between all the depictions, resulting from Ukhtomsky, Hau and Premazzi all using the same technique of working with watercolour. Closer examination, however, reveals the individual characteristics of each of the artists. Luigi Premazzi, who was reckoned the best watercolourist, created a bright contrasting range of colours, working in warm tones that give an impression of sunlight. Edward Hau's palette is significantly cooler, while in his work individual details and the contours of objects are clearly delineated. Ukhtomsky worked in a warm, muted range of colours using lacquer to increase the depth of tone; to create highlights he used gouache and, in some instances, the natural colour of the paper. The impeccable watercolour technique elevates these depictions to the level of high art.
In March 1862 the entire New Hermitage ouvrage was removed from the catalogue of the museum's second section and transferred to the library of Emperor Alexander II. It came back into the Hermitage only in 1920.

 


Title page of the ouvrage ''The Museum of the Imperial Hermitage''
Konstantin Ukhtomsky

Full size image


Plans of the 1st and 2nd storeys
Leo von Klenze

Full size image


South and East Façades of the New Hermitage
Leo von Klenze

Full size image


Piers. Architectural detail.
First Room of Modern Sculpture

Luigi Premazzi

Full size image


Museum furniture produced to Klenze's designs
Room of the Antiquities of Cimmerian Bosporus

Konstantin Ukhtomsky

Full size image


Skylight. Detail of the ceiling
Room of the Spanish School

Edward Hau

Full size image

 

 

Copyright © 2011 State Hermitage Museum
All rights reserved. Image Usage Policy.
About the Site