Donation ends 50 years of conflict
Andre-Marc Deloque-Forcaud, the grandson of the Russian industrialist and collector, Sergei Shchukin, has donated six French paintings from his grandfather’s collection to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (PMFA), effectively ending a half-century of conflict between his family and Russia over the question of ownership of his grandfather’s priceless collection, which was confiscated by the Bolsheviks in 1918 and sent to the newly created State Museum of New Western Art in Moscow.
The works that have been donated to the Pushkin Museum by Mr Deloque-Forcaud were bought by Shchukin after he had fled Russia to Paris in the 1920s, where most of his family still live. They include four paintings by Henri Le Fauconnier, and two by Raoul Dufy.
“When Mme Antonova [director of the PMFA] wrote to me saying her museum was going to mark Sergei Shchukin’s 150th birthday anniversary, I was moved and decided I must give the last six paintings we had from my grandfather’s collection to Moscow”, Mr Deloque-Fourcaud said in an interview with a Russian newspaper.
The PMFA opened the Shchukin exhibition at the end of September, and in 2005 it plans more events celebrating the collector and his brother, Dmitri, who was also a collector. Their other brother, Pyotr, assembled a large collection of Russian artefacts that he donated to the Russian History Museum in 1905.
Sergei Shchukin’s collection originally consisted of 258 paintings, including 57 by Picasso, 38 by Matisse, 13 by Monet, six by Gauguin, eight by Cezanne, and works by Renoir, Van Gogh, Rousseau, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Even before the Revolution, Shchukin had planned to leave his art as a gift to the city of Moscow after his death. In 1946, as part of Stalin’s anti-Western drive, the State Museum of New Western Art, where the Bolsheviks had sent Shchukin’s paintings, was closed, and the collection divided between the State Hermitage Museum and
Mr Delocque-Fourcaud has been challenging the Bolshevik nationalisation of his grandfather’s collection for the last 50 years, claiming that no compensation was ever paid to Shchukin or his family for the works. He has filed suits in France, Italy and the US, all of which have failed. In December 2003, he withdrew a suit seeking to halt a loan exhibition from the Pushkin of some of the paintings from his grandfather’s collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The issue of Shchukin’s mansion in Moscow remains unresolved. Mr Deloque-Fourcaud has said he would like to see the Russian Defence Ministry vacate the building and give it to the PMFA, a move that would certainly help cement the burgeoning friendship between Shchukin’s grandson and the museum that now houses many of his works.