The Sevastopol Art Museum is one of the richest art collections in the Crimea. Despite the fact that it was organized comparatively recently, in 1927, its history is remarkable in many ways and, for one thing, could be dated further back, to the first days following the end of the Civil War in Crimea. In December 1920, a Museum of Arts was organized in Yalta from natioinalized private collections. Originally it included a small number of works, mainly by West European masters, and some occasional items of decorative and applied art. In the early 1920s the museum was substantially enlarged: among the new acquisitions were objects of art from the Livadia Palace, the summer residence of the czars, as well as from the private collections of Golitsyn in Novy Svet, and the Baryatinskys in Uch-Ghama.
As Sevastopol was fast becoming an important seaport on the Black Sea, it was decided to set up a museum in the city. In 1927 the Yalta collection, supplemented with some works of the Russian school, was transferred to Sevastopol, and on November 8 the Sevastopol Art Gallery was inaugurated. In 1965 it was given its present name of the Sevastopol Art Museum. Its first director, A. Korenev who was an expert in West European art, systematized and catalogued the famous Shchukin collection of the French school of the turn of the 20th century. Subsequently the museum exhibition was enlarged by works from the funds of the Moscow and Leningrad museums, and in 1931 a section of Soviet art and the engraving department were opened.
During the Second World War the collection was evacuated inland. After the liberation of the Crimea it was on display at the Simferopol Art Gallery from 1945 to 1956. In October 1956 it was moved to the newly opened museum in the Hero-City of Sevastopol. Since then the museum has been acquiring new works of Soviet artists, including those from the Ukraine. To date it displays about 8,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and items of decorative and applied art of different times and countries.
The West European section features mainly paintings of Italy of the 16th - 19th centuries, of Flanders, Holland and France from the 17th to early 19th centuries, and of Germany of the 18th - 19th centuries. The most comprehensive and esthetically valuable is the collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings of the 17th century. It represents Frans Snyders,David Teniers the Younger, Abraham Teniers, Isaak Moucheron, J. Miense Molenaer, and others. There are such exquisite specimens of different genres as " Cleaning Plates and Dishes " by an unknown master, "Smoker " by David Teniers the Younger, "Portrait of a Man Wearing a Black Hat " by Nicolaes Eliasz, and "At the Bayside " by Abraham Stork.
Especially interesting is the display of still life painting which was very popular in the 17th century. It embraces the period from the earliest stages of development of this genre (exemplified by "Still-life with a Broiled Hen " by Osias Bert the Elder) to the highest stage when this essentially diminutive style of painting attained a pronounced monumentality (as in Frans Snyders' "Fishes on the Shore ").Of the superb Dutch still lifes we should mention the "Fishes and Lobster " signed with three monograms and dated 1642. The main still life part of the canvas was painted by Willem Ormea, the landscape background by Adam Willaerts, and the lobster by Frans Reykhals. The canvas eloquently illustrates the narrow specialization of the Dutch still life painters who sometimes worked in groups on one painting. Such works were highly valued by connoisseurs. The Italian collection displays different trends and styles, such as the Renaissance - "Madonna with Child and the Saints " by an anonymous artist of the early 16th century; the baroque - Luca Giordano's "The Holy Family "; and the academicism - Carlo Maratt's "Christ and the Samaritan Woman ". Of special interest is the Peasants' Breakfast " ascribed to the brush of Jacopo Bassano, the prominent mas- ter of the Venetian school of painting who was the first in 16th-century Italian art to turn to scenes from everyday life, retaining at the same time the Renaissance monumentality and beauty of images. Although the collection of Russian art is rather small, it nevertheless offers a good opportunity of tracing the distinctive features of Russian painting from the early 19th century and up to our days. The first half of the 19th century is represented by the academic school (S. Galaktionov's "Fountain in Peterhof ", M. Vorobyov's "View of the Bosporus ", V. Villevalde's "Battle in the Rotenturm Gorge "), as well as by some realistic canvases of the period, particularly those by V. Tropinin. The poetical "Boy with a Book ", the official and restrained "Portrait of Count Golitsyn ", and the grand imposing "Portrait of Merchant Kiselyov's Wife " belong to different periods of the artist's creativity and show the evoluticn of his approach in portraiture.
The latter half of the 19th century is represented more comprehensively. The canvases by I. Kramskoi, V. Makovsky, V. Maxirnov, 1. Pryanishnikov, I. Shishkin and N. Kasatkin give an idea of the ideological and artistic credo of the peredvizhniki (members of the Society of Mobile Art Exhibitions) who introduced democratic principles and new esthetic ideals into fine arts. N. Kasatkin's "In the Corridor of a Circuit Court " is an exquisite specimen of Russian realistic painting of the late 19th century. At the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris it won him a silver medal.
Although such prominent artists as I. Repin, V. Polenov, I. Levitan, V. Serov, and M. Nesterov are represented by their loss known works, one can form a fairly accurate idea of the individual styles of each of the craftsmen. Of the superb works of the turn of the century are the landscapes of K. Bogayevsky, K. Gorbatov, K. Korovin, S. Kolesnikov, L. Turzhansky, P. Petrovicliev, the interiors of S. Zhukovsky and K. Yuon, and the scenery sketches of K. Korovin, B. Kustodiev and S. Sudeikin. All of their works show an intensive quest for new means of artistic expression, as well as ample diversity of their talents.
A notable feature of the Soviet Art section is the collection of canvases by masters of the older generation; among them, to mention but a few, are I. Grabar's "Winter Morning ", with its fascinating colors and strikingly optimistic mood, K. Yuon's "Holiday at a Village Cooperative ", depicting the new realities in the countryside in Soviet times, V. Byalinitsky-Birulya's and A. Kuprin's landscapes, and P. Konchalovsky's still life Apples, which is one of the best works of the section.
The Sevastopol Art Museum introduces the visitor into the art of different periods and different countries, and gives him a better and more profound knowledge of the major stages of development of the culture and art of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples.