It took me two months to decide that I would go to Paris to see the exhibition called “Icons of Modern Art”. This exhibit, held at the Louis Vuitton Foundation consisted in 127 paintings once owned by the Russian textile manufacturer and art collector, Sergei Shchukin. Shchukin left Russia when the Soviets took over in about 1917. His collection broken up and sent to two museums, the Glinka and the Hermitage, and to a few private collections, remained scattered until the curator of the Vuitton requested that the collection be brought together and shown in Paris. The collection includes works by Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Pizarro, Gauguin, Van Gough, Sisily and several avant-guard Russians, Malevich, Tatlin, Rodehenko, Popova, Udaltsova, Klyun and Ekster.
Having succumbed to the temptation to see the exhibition, I found air fares and hotel accommodations at reasonable rates. Then, among my art-loving friends, I tried to find someone to accompany me. They all turned me down. Finally, a young friend agreed to a three -day adventure to the City of Lights.
Having purchased timed tickets ahead, I was shocked to find a long line waiting to enter the Foundation Museum. It seems that all of France was galvanized to view this once-in-a-life-time exhibition. My friend and reluctantly I took our place at the end of the line. Silently, I prayed that my patience and my feet would hold out at least until we got into the building. By this time, we had endured a trans-Atlantic flight followed by a three -mile walk. My prayers were answered within 20 minutes. In spite of the crowded galleries, we spent the next two hours viewing some of the most exciting art ever created. These artists were not only great creative technicians, but great innovators. The works that they created ushered in the era of modern art. Rubbing shoulders with genius is sometimes humbling, but it is always inspiring. I came away delighting in the versatility and inventiveness in the works of human hearts and souls, not to mention, hands.
Upon reflection, although I have no way of proving it, I was saddened by the abortion of the works of the Russian avant-guard artists by the 1917 October Revolution. I believe it met the same fate as the German avant-guard film movement prior to World War II. War destroys much more than material things and human bodies.