Curious Minds: Splendour and Opulence: Catherine the Great and the Hermitage Museum


Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Fri, May 18, 2018 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Fri, May 25, 2018 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Fri, Jun 1, 2018 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Fri, Jun 8, 2018 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Fri, Jun 15, 2018 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Fri, Jun 22, 2018 10:00 AM


An imperial residence, a museum, a monument to splendour and opulence—Russia’s Hermitage is more than just a building. In this lively survey of its 250-year history, we'll travel back in time and discuss how this international landmark has reflected St. Petersburg’s development from a swampy backwater into a dazzling imperial capital. Beginning with Peter the Great’s decision to establish a new imperial capital in St. Petersburg, the course will examine how Catherine the Great, a self-proclaimed art and architecture addict, continued Peter’s project of Europeanization and ultimately transformed St. Petersburg into one of the world’s cultural centers. We’ll explore how every subsequent tsar fashioned the Hermitage to suit his political agenda, and how the museum continues to bear witness to Russia’s fascinating and tumultuous history.

This course is led by Julia Zarankin, an award-winning lecturer who has taught on Russian and European culture at Stanford and Princeton, and locally at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Recently awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award from U of T, she holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University.

May 18: The Birth of St. Petersburg
Peter the Great’s decision to move the Russian Imperial capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg revolutionizes Russia and ushers it into the modern age. We’ll discuss the transformation of St. Petersburg from swamp to city and will acquaint ourselves with the first architects of the city and of the Winter Palace.

May 25: Addicted to Art: Catherine and her Hermitage
Catherine the Great builds upon Peter’s project of westernizing Russia and embarks on a series of opulent building projects, among them the creation of her Hermitage, a multi-part complex to house her ever-expanding collection of European art and antiquities. We’ll discuss Giacomo Quarenghi, the brilliant Italian architect who executes her vision.

June 1: Imperial Splendour
Alexander I’s victory over Napoleon establishes Russia as one of the leading powers of Europe. We’ll discuss how Alexander I commissions Carlo Rossi to transform the square behind the Winter Palace/Hermitage to reflect Russia’s new imperial might and how the art collection of the Hermitage announces a new age.

Further Viewing | Hermitage Revealed — Friday, June 1, 1:00 PM & Sunday, June 3, 2:15 PM

June 8: A Public Museum!
After a great fire in 1837, Nicholas I reconstructs the Winter Palace and Hermitage to conform to his reactionary political agenda. We’ll talk about his decision to do away with many of Catherine the Great’s favorite artworks that reflected Enlightenment values. The Hermitage gains a new building and is transformed into a public museum in 1852.

June 15: Great Reforms, Nationalism, and the Hermitage
A series sweeping reforms, including the emancipation of the serfs, takes Russia by storm. The 1860s marks an important point of transition in Russian cultural life: no longer copying Europe, Russian art, literature, and music experience a renaissance of sorts. We’ll discuss how the Hermitage collection expands and responds to the rise of nationalism in Russia.

Further Viewing | Russian Ark — Friday, June 15, 1:00 PM

June 22 The Hermitage and the Tumultuous 20th Century
Our final class will explore how the Hermitage responds to political and economic upheaval and how the museum evolves as a result of the Bolshevik nationalization of art and private property in the 1920s. Stalin sells off Hermitage treasures to finance industrial 5-year Plans and, just when things couldn’t get any worse, the Hermitage must survive the Leningrad blockade of WWII. We’ll conclude with a discussion of the Hermitage today and the direction it’s taking in the 21st Century.

Additional Information

Fridays, May 18 - June 22 - 10:00 AM

Six-week course: $63 (Members: $54, $42, Free) - REGISTER NOW
Single class: $21 (Members: $17, $14, Free)

Doors will open one hour before the first class. Registrants will receive supplementary materials in advance of their first class.

See all Curious Minds courses for Summer 2018

Sponsored by