The Department is comprised of four sectors: 13th-18th cc. painting, 19th-20th cc. painting and sculpture, drawings, and engravings. The Department’s collections number over 550,000 items. The Department employs over sixty curators. Head of Department: Sergey Androsov
The Department of Western European Fine Art is the oldest and largest in the museum. Its collections include over 7,000 paintings, 2,000 sculptures, 40,000 drawings, 500,000 engravings by European masters from the Middle Ages to the present day. The Department’s exhibitions occupy over half of all the rooms at the Hermitage. Its temporary displays play an equally prominent part in the life of the museum.
In accordance with museum tradition, most of the Department’s academic fellows also serve as curators of individual collections. This determines the main purpose of the Department’s operations: study and academic cataloguing of the collections. The majority of academic subjects researched by the Department’s employees are related to its collections. Full-scale study and academic description of the collections of paintings, sculptures, and drawings in the gallery have been the main focus of its curators since the mid-20th century, and these efforts have intensified considerably in recent years. The result of this long-term study is the continuing publication of the collection of Western European paintings which is consistent with the current level of research in this area. The first volumes were published in cooperation with the Italian publisher Giunti in the 1980s and 1990s. These included books on the history of 18th-20th c. French painting, the German and English schools, the Old Netherlandish, Italian and Spanish masters. Since 2005, the collection catalogues have been published by the State Hermitage Publishing House. The recent volumes include those on 17th-18th c. Flemish painting, 13th-16th c. and 17th-c. Italian masters, the English and Spanish schools, works by 19th-20th c. Dutch and Belgian artists. The full academic publication of the European paintings from the Hermitage is due to be completed in the coming years.
Similar projects are under way in the study of the sculpture collection. Catalogues of Old Italian sculptures have now been published, and a catalogue of the 19th-20th c. German school is due to be printed soon.
The collection of drawings has its own catalogues which are often tied in with the exhibitions organised by the Hermitage. These include the publication of pastels by 18th-20th century Western European artists, drawings by Old Netherlandish masters, 15th-17th c. French artists, the German Expressionists, the graphic heritage of Clerisseau and Thomas de Thomon.
This work would have been very difficult without the use of the modern IT technologies which have taken catalogue processing to a new level. This is especially relevant for collections of graphic works which contain thousands of items. Photographic recording of the collections is equally important for the Department. It has been mostly completed, with the exception of half a million engravings which are still being photographed.
Apart from projects within the museum itself, the Department takes an active part in the Hermitage exhibitions in Russia and abroad, first of all in the Hermitage centres in Amsterdam, Kazan, Vyborg. The Department accounts for a half of the exhibitions, which are generally a great success.