The Soviet Union's most celebrated art museum in international circles is the one that houses its foreign collections. Long lines form almost daily at the entrance of the Hermitage's palatial structure in Leningrad. When the Soviets loan French Impressionist works from the Hermitage's collection--as they did last year in an exhibition that traveled to Los Angeles--the event brings front page headlines and record attendance.

Now the County Museum of Art presents the home-grown side of Russian art from the Soviet Union's two major repositories of art created within the vast country. "Russia, the Land, the People: Russian Painting 1850-1910" includes 62 paintings by 19th-Century artists, on loan from the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the State Russian Museum in Leningrad.

Artworks in the exhibition reflect the turbulent era leading to the Russian Revolution. It was a time of industrialization and urbanization, when artists questioned the values of the old patriarchal society while seeking a means of expression free from European influence. Members of one important nationalistic group were called the Itinerants because of their mission to take traveling art exhibitions to the provinces. Itinerant leaders Ivan Kramskoi, Vasilii Perov and Ivan Shishkin all have works in "Russia."

The show also focuses on portraits of Russian personalities and realist landscapes. Wassily Kandinsky, primarily known for his abstractions, is represented by an early (1909) landscape, said to fit the tradition of Russian landscape painting even though it was painted in Bavaria.

The exhibition, opening Thursday and running through Aug. 2, is an outgrowth of the 1985 cultural agreement made in Geneva. In return for "Russia," the United States this fall will send a show called "New Horizons: American Painting 1840-1910" to the Soviet Union. The American exhibition is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Both shows are funded by grants from the Armand Hammer Foundation and the Pepsico Foundation.

AUCTION WATCH: Another Van Gogh painting is coming on the market June 29 at Christie's in London. "Le Pont de Trinquetaille" is expected to fetch from $10 million to $15 million--less than the record $40 million recently paid by a Japanese insurance company for Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" but still the second highest price for a painting sold at auction. The Dutch master's 1888 painting of a bridge was shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 1984 "Van Gogh in Arles" exhibition. "Le Pont de Trinquetaille" has been in a private collection since 1932 when Siegfried Kramarsky bought it for about $14,400.

The Van Gogh is in a sale of Impressionist and Modern paintings that also offers Matisse's "Le Seance du Matin," painted in Nice in 1924. Christie's expects the painting of a woman in a chair to bring more than $2 million.

GETTY ART ED: The Getty Center for Education in the Arts, funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust, has awarded eight $20,000 grants to consortia of universities, school districts and art museums across the country. Institutions heading the consortia are: Florida State University, the University of Minnesota, the Nebraska Department of Education, Ohio State University, Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and North Texas State University.

The grants will help the recipients plan regional institutes for teaching the Getty's "discipline-based" art education program in elementary and secondary schools. The program, already in place in various schools in Los Angeles County, focuses on four aspects of art education: history, criticism, production and aesthetics.

NEW AT LACMA: Four contemporary artworks currently on view in the County Museum of Art's "Avant-Garde in the '80s" exhibition have been purchased by the museum with funds raised by the Modern and Contemporary Art Council and individual contributors. John Baldessari's photocollage, "Heel"; Suzanne Caporael's psychologically-charged landscape painting, "Absence Becomes You," an untitled granite work by Matt Mullican and Peter Shelton's cast iron torso sculpture, "Ump," will remain at the museum after the exhibition closes July 12.

ON THE BLOCK: Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies will hold its second annual photo auction, Saturday, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Karl Bornstein Gallery, 1662 12th St., Santa Monica. More than 100 contemporary and vintage photographs will be for sale, with proceeds benefitting the nonprofit arts organization that sponsors exhibitions, lectures, publications and video screenings. Admission to the auction is $15, including wine and food. Works can be previewed this week at the gallery. Information: (213) 623-9410.

MORE MONEY: Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions was the big winner in Southern California this month when the National Endowment for the Arts passed out 115 grants totaling $1.86 million to visual artists organizations. LACE was one of four institutions across the country to get the top award of $50,000. Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies also landed a $25,000 grant to support its programs. The Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Self-Help Graphics and Art, the Social and Public Arts Resource Center, the Woman's Building and Sushi (in San Diego) each won $15,000 grants, while the Foundation for Art Resources was awarded $5,000.

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