Moussorgsky had been a personal friend of artist Victor Hartmann, whose paintings and drawings appeared in February of 1874 at the gallery of the St. Petersburg Architectural Society. The artist had died suddenly at the age of 39; Moussorgsky owned at least two of the drawings, and loaned them to the gallery for the occasion. Here are descriptions of Pictures At An Exhibition Part 1:
Moussorgsky weighed in excess of 100kg, and the alternation between 5/4 and 6/4 meter is intended to imitate his waddling gait as he strolled from picture to picture. The Promenade theme appears in altered form throughout the work to remind us of the presence of the viewer.
This sketch was of a wooden nutcracker of the type used as Tchaikovsky's hero in his ballet of the same name. Hartmann's nutcracker had fierce-looking teeth, a mean expression, and quick-snapping jaws.
IL VECHIO CASTELLO
Hartman sketched an old castle in Italy and, as was often the practice, placed a human figure in the foreground to show the approximate scale of the building. In this case, the human was a troubadour with a lute. It is the troubador rather than the castle which interested the composer, and it is his song we hear.
Hartmann made several water colors of famous gardens. In this case, there is a group of children quarreling in the foreground, and it is their dispute that Moussorgsky depicts.
This is a description of an ox cart with giant wheels carrying some cattle along a muddy road in the ghetto of Sandomir Poland, in which the composer employs the melody of an old folk song.
BALLET OF CHICKS IN THEIR SHELLS
This drawing was a costume design for a ballet called "Trilbi", in which the dancers are depicted in their eggshell-like costumes.
TWO POLISH JEWS, ONE RICH THE OTHER POOR
The usually pompous opening depicts the rich man and the stuttering middle section is the nervous fast talk of the poor man, portrayed as a beggar.