This week: Russia’s history in art, Rome’s modern ruins, the reign of Itzhak Perlman & more from the world of culture.
The Collector: The Story of Sergei Shchukin and His Lost Masterpieces, by Natalya Semenova and André Delocque (Yale University Press): Sergei Shchukin (1854–1936), the sickly and stuttering third son of a Muscovite textile merchant, was an unlikely candidate to become one of Europe’s most important collectors of modern painting. Devoting himself to the family business for the first half of his life, Shchukin was known for his exceptional understanding of markets and a hardline approach to business (his nickname in the industry was “the Porcupine”), but he concerned himself little with matters of the arts. At the age of forty-three, however, sitting comfortably atop what had become a global textile empire, Shchukin began buying the first artworks in what grew into a nearly three-hundred-work collection. Shchukin’s patronage was crucial to the careers of vanguard artists such as Henri Matisse, who at the time had yet to enjoy institutional or private support. The story of his impressive collection ran parallel, in a way, to the story of Russia as it passed from Tsarist monarchy to Bolshevik revolution to Stalinist totalitarianism. Natalya Semenova, with André Delocque, gives us this story in a new, attractive volume, out now from Yale University Press. For more, read James Panero’s essay on a recent exhibition of highlights from the collection in Paris. —AS
“The Third Rome: Allegorical Landscapes of the Modern City,” at Robert Simon Fine Art (through December 14): The ruins of the Eternal City are not always ancient. Sometimes they are modern. In “The Third Rome: Allegorical Landscapes of the Modern City,” her solo exhibition now on view at Robert Simon Fine Art, the painter Pamela Talese looks to the remains of Fascist Rome that still haunt the city’s periphery. Painted en plein air, these small oils record the buildings and statuary of dubious distinction to unearth a recent past that many would like to consider done and buried. —JP
“Itzhak Perlman in Conversation with Alan Alda,” at the 92nd Street Y (November 13): Itzhak Perlman is, arguably, one of the last household names in classical music. He is beloved as much for his life story as for his talent on the violin: born in Israel in 1945 to a family of Jewish émigrés from Poland, the polio-afflicted prodigy soon moved to New York to study at Juilliard. He became an international phenomenon after his debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958, at the age of thirteen (his sixtieth-anniversary return to the Ed Sullivan Theater includes a clip of a baby-faced Perlman absolutely murdering Mendelssohn—in a good way). For six decades now, Perlman has ruled benevolently over the realm of violin performance, adored for his personable stage presence, his jokes about how performing from a wheelchair makes bowing—both kinds—a bit difficult, and his devotion to his friends and Toby, his wife of more than fifty years. Perlman and the actor Alan Alda, his longtime friend, talk about Itzhak, a biopic released last month, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the 92nd Street Y. —HN
“Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North,” at the General Society Library (November 19): Mary Miers’s 2017 book Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North (Rizzoli) was a triumph: approachable yet scholarly, and gorgeously illustrated. Next Monday she’ll speak on the remarkable variety of Scottish architecture at the General Society Library, under the auspices of the Royal Oak Foundation. —BR
From the archive:“The other Rothko scandal,” by Eric Gibson (October 1988). On Mark Rothko’s Harvard murals.
From the current issue: “Victory & defeat: the Armistice at 100,” by Nick Lloyd. A retrospective look at the legacy of the First World War, which ended on November 11, 1918.