On November 17, 1757, Empress Elizaveta founded the Imperial Academy of Three Noble Arts was on the initiative of Ivan Shuvalov, a noted enlightener of that time who also served as the first curator of the academy. Shuvalov brought in teachers from Europe, attracted the first Russian students to be trained at the Academy and donated his remarkable private fine arts collection that became a core of the Academy Museum and Library.
In 1764, Catherine the Great emphasized the significance of the Academy by proclaiming it the Imperial Academy of Arts, approved its charter and staff and granted the Academy a special privilege. The construction of the imposing building of the Imperial Academy of Arts in Neo-Classical style overlooking the Neva-River designed by Alexander Kokorinov and Jean Vallin de la Mothe also began in 1764 and was completed in 1788.
The Imperial Academy of Arts was one of the most progressive cultural entities in those days. The Academy’s first homegrown talents, such artists and architects as A. Losenko, F. Shubin, V. Bazhenov, F. Rokotov, testified to the high level of art education in Russia. The Academy students studied all the pictorial and graphic genres, as well as the art of sculpture and architecture. The most gifted of them were given scholarships to continue their education in France and Italy.
Later, the Academy’s roll call of graduates included eminent painters A. Ivanov, K. Bryullov (who with his masterpiece “The Last Day of Pompeii” became the first Academy painter to enjoy an international reputation in 1834 when it won the Grand Prix at the Paris Salon), I. Repin, V. Polenov, V. Surikov; sculptors I. Martos, V. Demut-Malinovski, S. Pimenov, I. Prokofiev, M. Antokolski; architects A. Voronikhin, N. Benois, K. Ton, I. Fomin, V. Shuko and many others.
In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, by a presidential edict the USSR Academy of Arts was transformed into the Russian Academy of Arts. Since 1997 to the present day the academy of has been headed by the world-renowned artist and sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.
© Russkiy Mir. 18 November, 2012