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Times Art Writer

The last piece of the Soviet art-exchange puzzle finally has fallen into place. The County Museum of Art on Friday morning received word that “The Red Room,” a major painting by Henri Matisse, will join 40 other works by Impressionists and early modern masters from Soviet collections in a summer exhibition at the museum.

The 1908 painting of a woman in a richly patterned room was originally listed as a highlight of the exchange exhibition when the show was announced last December, but it was subsequently removed from the tentative roster. Just before the show opened at the National Gallery in Washington (where it continues through June 15), director J. Carter Brown jubilantly announced that the painting would appear in Washington, after all.

At that point, it looked as if the coveted artwork--considered by experts to be a key piece in the development of modern art--would not travel on to Los Angeles and New York. But negotiations finally succeeded, partly through the persistence of Armand Hammer, head of Occidental Petroleum and a man with long ties to officials in the Soviet Union. Hammer was a major force in bringing about the art-exchange agreement.


“Impressionist to Early Modern Paintings From the U.S.S.R.” will open with its full complement of paintings on June 26 at the County Museum of Art and continue through Aug. 12.

Soviet museums contain more than 60 paintings and sculptures by Matisse, the world’s richest cache of works by the French master celebrated for his Fauvist color, effusive pattern and joie de vivre.

Only seven of these works, including “The Red Room,” are visiting the United States, but they represent Matisse well and form the lush centerpiece of the show. The vivid red canvas makes a handsome companion piece for “Conversation,” another Matisse jewel, depicting the artist and his wife in a bright blue interior.

Other Matisses to be shown are “Spanish Woman With a Tambourine” (1909), “Goldfish” (1911), “Moroccan in Green” (1911-13), “Nasturtiums With ‘La Danse’ ” (1912) and “Bouquet on the Veranda” (1913).

Works by Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso complete the exhibition.

Among eagerly awaited highlights are eight oils covering about 30 years of Cezanne’s development from Impressionism to Cubism, in portraits, still lifes and landscapes. Nine paintings by Gauguin concentrate on his Tahitian themes.


Only three works by Van Gogh are in the show, but they include an expressive likeness of Dr. Felix Rey, who cared for the artist in Arles, and “Round of Prisoners,” a haunting work that places the artist in a lineup of marchers.

Eight paintings by Picasso survey his early work from his Blue Period through Cubism. Renoir is represented by a landscape and two portraits and Monet by three early works.

All the paintings are on loan from the Hermitage in Leningrad and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. They are among late 19th- and early 20th-Century works collected privately by Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin and later taken over by state museums.

In return for the American show of Soviet-owned art, the National Gallery sent 40 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings to the Hermitage in February and a group of paintings and drawings from Hammer’s private collection is currently on tour in the Soviet Union.

Tickets to “Impressionist to Early Modern Paintings From the U.S.S.R.” go on public sale in Los Angeles on June 12 at Ticketmaster centers, at May Co., Music Plus and Sportmart, and through Ticketmaster’s charge-by-phone service (213) 480-3232.

Tickets, at $4 for adults and $2 for children, will be sold for specific hourlong periods seven days a week and most evenings, guaranteeing admission throughout that hour.