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Portraits of key artistic figures in 19th and 20th century Russia are shown together in Britain for the first time as part of an unprecedented cultural exchange with Moscow.

This exhibition is part of a joint project between the State Tretyakov Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, which has been devised to celebrate their shared 160th anniversaries. Marking the fact that both galleries were founded specifically to put together a collection of portraits of their country's most eminent figures, the two institutions have agreed to exchange key masterpieces that show them fulfilling this ambition.

For the display in London, paintings of Russian artists, philosophers, composers, writers and actors spanning 1867-1914 highlight an artistic golden age for the nation. Tolstoy is shown in the study of his Moscow home working on the manuscript for What I Believe, while Mussorgsky was painted just a few days before his death in a military hospital.

Serov's portrait of actress Maria Ermolova – painted over 32 sittings – is joined by his depiction of the entrepreneur and patron of the arts Ivan Morozov. Morozov is pictured in front of Henri Matisse's Fruit and Bronze a painting he had just acquired for his world-leading collection of modern French art.

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