The Tretyakov Gallery dates from 1856, when the purchase of Nikolai Schilder's painting The Temptation saw the beginning of the collecting activities of the young, wealthy Moscow merchant, Pavel Tretyakov (1832 - 1898). Whereas his first acquisitions followed no clear pattern, paintings by Vasily Perov, added to the collection in the sixties, determined paths which the Gallery was to follow. There was to be a collection of Russian painting, the fulfilment of a historic mission - that of patriotic and moral education of the people.Pavel Tretyakov acquired the very best from contemporary painters in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The collection contains many works by members of the Society for Circulating Art Exhibitions (The Peredvizhniki). Often taking part in the selection of pictures were such outstanding painters as Ivan Kramskoi and Ilya Repin, the critic Vladimir Stasov and other Russian cultural figures; this turned Tretyakov's collection into a veritable centre of Russia's artistic life.Seeking fullness and diversity in his display of Russian pictorial art, Pavel Tretyakov wanted the outstanding masters to be represented by works reflecting all the main stages in their creative careers.
The collector's brother, Sergei Tretyakov, was also a connoisseur of art who collected pictures not only by Russian, but also by French and Dutch painters. The Tretyzakov brothers' mansion in Lavrushinsky Lane had to be expanded in 1872 to accommodate the two collections. Subsequently rebuilding had to be undertaken five times. Six more rooms had to be added in 1882 to accommodate the vast Turkestan series of paintings by Vasily Vereshchagin. The modern facade of the Gallery was added to the Tretyakov's mansion in 1902 to a design by Victor Vasnetsov.
The collection of Pavel and Sergei Tretyakov was opened to the public in I874 as a private museum and rapidly became very popular.
In 1892 Pavel Tretyakov presented his collection, by that time already famous, to the city of Moscow.
Pavel Tretyakov remained the life-long Curator of the Gallery. Upon his death in 1898 the Gallery was headed by a Board, on which served the well-known collector and artist Ilya Ostroukhov, the famous painter Valentin Serov and Pavel Tretyakov's daughter Anna Botkina, as well as a number of other cultural figures. In 1905 at the Board's initiative, which deemed it its task to carry on the work of the founder, the chronological frameworks of the collections were enlarged to include a Department of' Old Russian Art. Pavel Tretyakov was one of the first in Russia to appreciate icons as monuments of artistic endeavour. His collection of about sixty works of Old Russian painting were not displayed, remaining his own property to the end of his life.
The formation of a Department of Soviet Art began in the Tretyakov Gallery in 1918, and the acquisition, starting in the late twenties, of paintings from exhibitions and from the studios of Soviet painters assumed broad scope. The Department of Soviet Art has outstanding works by painters from all the Union Republics. It reveals the role of art in the building of a new society.
Pavel Tretyakov also started a collection of Russian graphic art. Since in his time drawing was regarded as a secondary art, the collection was neither systematic nor substantial. Its character changed in 1926 when the Tretyakov Gallery acquired the Tsvetkov collection, which reflects the main stages in the development of draughtsmanship in Russia. This allowed the Tretyakov Gallery to create a Department of Graphic Art.
The Gallery possesses outstanding Russian paintings of the 16th century, indulging icons attributed to Dionysius. The department's display concludes. with works by the 17th century icon painters of the Kremlin Armoury headed by Simon Ushakov.
The exhibition of paintings opens with the portraits of Ivan Nikitin, whose work marked the departure of Russian art from the portrait icon - the old form of the representative portrait, strongly iconic in character. The striving by men who had attained eminence to have their features recorded in paint started under Peter the Great when a person's status in society began to be determined not so much by birth as by energy, and singleness of purpose. The need for developing a Russian school of portraiture was clearly realized' by Peter I, who extended particular patronage to ivan Nikitin.
Portrait of Chancellor of State Golovkin, ascribed to Nikitin, is distinguished by the highly professional technique used in its execution.
In 1858, Professor Hertz, first head of the history of art department at Moscow University argued that for educational purposes, a museum of plaster cast copies of world-famous sculptures ought to be set up. This idea was debated among Moscow men of art and science for over forty years. Funds for the construction of the museum building were raised by subscription in the years from the late seventies to the early nineties of the 19th century.
The foundations of the new museum building in Volkhonka Street were laid in 1898. In his design, the architect Roman Klein provided suitable settings for sculpture of different periods by reproducing parts of buildings which enjoy world-wide renown.
In 1912, the museum was opened to the public. Now Moscow had a comprehensive collection of copies of ancient Greek, Roman, medieval and Renaissance masterpieces, including electroplate copies of some of the best-known silverware antiquities. In addition to that, the museum found itself in possession of a remarkable co11ection of Egyptian antiquities and several 13th and 14th century Italian paintings.
The Museum of Fine Arts functioned as an educational centre under the auspices of Moscow University until 1923, when it was handed over to Narkompros (The People's Commissariat of Education) as a national museum. The new status required essential changes in the structure and work of the museum.
In the late twenties, the museum collection incorporated a number of 16th century Italian and early 20th century French romantic paintings from nationalized palaces of Russian nobles: the Shuvalovs, the Yusupovs, the Sheremetevs. A little later, some first-rate paintings came from the Hermitage collection.
Gradually the Museum of Fine Arts, from a collection of replicas, turned into a repository of original artistic masterpieces. It was named after Pushkin in 1937 (the centenary of the poet's death).
In 1948, the museum collection grew again, to included the late 19th and early 20th century French paintings and French sculptures of the same period from the abolished Museum of Modern Western Art.
After the October Revolution of 1917, the Engraving Room received nationalized collections of Russian nobles and members of the royal family, among them exquisite Japanese prints and Chinese drawings.
In 1924, the Engraving Room became part of the Fine Arts Museum and attracted more prints and drawings by Russian and Soviet artists.
In 1924 too, a large collection of ancient and medieval coins and medals from the Rumiantsev Museum was handed over to the Museum of Fine Arts. Later on the collection accumulated Russian coins, medals and plaques, as well as Soviet coins, banknotes and medals.
In the thirties, the former Golenishchev Collection of Egyptian antiquities was added with pieces presented by several Soviet scientists. Today Egyptian antiquities dating from the period of the Old and Middle Kingdoms and the New Empire, represent the evolution of Egyptian art.
Address:10, Lavrushinsky Lane, Moscow, Rusia