Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite in ten movements, with interpolated variations on a Promenade theme, composed for piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874.
One of Mussorgsky’s friends was the artist Viktor Hartmann, who died suddenly in 1873 at the age of 39. Over 400 Hartmann works were exhibited in the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, Russia in February and March 1874. Mussorgsky lent works from his personal collection to the exhibit and viewed the show in person. Fired by the experience, he composed Pictures at an Exhibition in six weeks. The music depicts an imaginary tour of an art collection. Titles of individual movements allude to works by Hartmann.
Mussorgsky based his musical material on drawings and watercolours that Hartmann produced mostly during the artist’s travels abroad. Locales include Poland, France and Italy; the final movement depicts an architectural design for the capital city of Ukraine. Today most of the pictures from the Hartmann exhibit are lost, making it impossible to be sure in many cases which Hartmann works Mussorgsky had in mind.
This video shows the Hartmann drawings and paintings that are likely linked to individual sections of the suite.