The Fitzwilliam Museum: a source of inspiration
Already a source for M. R. James (writer of ghost stories and Director of the Fitzwilliam) at the beginning of the 20th century, the Fitzwilliam Museum has continued to inspire. This exhibition traces how contemporary ceramicists, musicians, painters, photographers, sculptors and writers have responded to the Fitzwilliam Museum and its collections. Contributors
The impact of museums and their collections on artists and writers has taken many forms. For example, when Marc Chagall arrived in Paris in 1910, the young Russian painter went directly from the train station to the Musée du Louvre.
'Going to the Louvre', he said later, 'is like reading the Bible or Shakespeare.'
Training ground and source of inspiration for generations of artists – most
notably Turner, Ingres, Manet, Degas, Cézanne and Picasso – the
Musée du Louvre also provided the French modernist painter Henri
Matisse with a wealth of ideas. A regular copyist during his student days,
he returned to the Louvre in 1915 and entered into a dialogue with Jan
Davidsz. de Heem, the seventeenth-century Dutch master of flower and fruit
still lifes. What emerged was another major still life, closely modelled
on the old master, yet also unquestionably modern in interpretation.
But if the influence of paintings crossed borders and centuries, it also had an impact on other art forms. One of the most pertinent examples is Modest Mussorgsky's piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition – a Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann (Картинки с выставки – Воспоминание о Викторе Гартмане), later arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel. Composed in St Petersburg in 1874, it is Mussorgsky’s musical record of a visit he paid to a commemorative exhibition. Mounted in honour of his artist friend Viktor Hartmann, it included over 400 architectural drawings, watercolours and paintings, now largely lost. Mussorgsky set ten of these a musical monument. Remarkably, the composition also documents his progress through the exhibition as well as the sorrow he felt over his friend’s death. Opened by way of a Promenade, the lead theme later reappears in the form of interludes and shows Mussorgsky move from picture to picture. It eventually merges into some of the 'pictures' - The Catacombes (picture no. 8) and The Great Gate of Kiev (picture no. 10) – and expresses the intense loss Mussorgsky felt when visiting the exhibition.
To explore who has been inspired by Samuel Palmer’s The Magic Apple Tree, as well as antiquities, armour, ceramics, coins, manuscripts, sculptures and other paintings in the collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum, select "Contributors" in the navigation bar on the left.
With sincere thanks to the contributors to this exhibition:
Alan Bennett, Helaine Blumenfeld, Richard Bray, A. S. Byatt, Alma Cullen, Christophe Gordon-Brown, Antony Gormley, Susanna Gregory, Rebecca Harvey, Christopher Hogwood, Joanna Howells, John Hubbard, Diane Hudson, Nathan Huxtable, David Kinloch, Patrick Lennon, Adrian Mitchell, Jill Paton Walsh, Ruth E. Scott, Michelle Spring, Robin Stemp, Rebecca Stott, Claire Tomalin, Edmund de Waal, Marina Warner and Peter Whitehead.
With generous support from: