Topic: Russian Art
Photo: A portrait of Pavel Tretyakov. Artist: Ilya Repin (1883)
Pavel Tretyakov, the renowned art collector and founder of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, was born 180 years ago. Together with his brother Sergei Mikhailovich, he collected paintings by Russian artists for over a quarter century, creating the most extensive private art gallery in Russia, which he then offered as a gift, along with the building housing it, to the city of Moscow.
Pavel Tretyakov was the son of a merchant and he received a good education at home. Having inherited his father’s business the young Pavel and his brother Sergei constructed a cotton mill that employed about 5,000 workers.
Pavel Tretyakov began to collect Russian art in the 1850s with the intention of donating it to the city. It is believed that he acquired his first Russian paintings in 1856: Nikolai Shilder’s “The Temptation” (1853) and Vasily Khudyakov’s “Skirmish with Finnish Smugglers” (1853). Later he added paintings by Savrasov, Trutovsky, Bruni, and other masters to the collection.
Tretyakov supported talented artists all over Russia and was a personal friend of many of them. He especially admired a number of young realist painters known as “Peredvizhniki” (the Itinerants or Wanderers). The Peredvizhniki artists tried to show the “true Russia” and acquaint common people with art. They protested against academic restrictions and resisted the belief that all art was centered in St. Petersburg.
Photo: The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow is the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.
Although the Russian painting tradition had not been formed yet and resembled the great art tradition of Europe, Tretyakov truly believed in Russian art. Medieval Russian art was nearly forgotten and works of the Russian painters of that time were scattered across private collections abroad. Tretyakov’s goal was to represent the Russian painting school in its entirety.
In 1893 the collections of both brothers opened as “The Pavel and Sergey Tretyakov Municipal Gallery.” Shortly afterwards, Pavel Tretyakov presented both collections to the city of Moscow. “For me, as one who truly and fervently loves painting, there can be no greater desire than to lay the foundation of a publically accessible repository of fine arts that would bring benefit and pleasure to many,” he wrote. At that time, the Tretyakov brothers’ gift numbered 1287 Russian paintings, 518 drawings, 9 sculptures, 75 paintings and 9 drawings by foreign artists, valued at 1.43 million rubles.
Towards the end of his life, Tretyakov was given the title of commerce adviser, became a member of the Moscow branch of the Council of Trade and Manufactures, and also (from 1893) became a full member of the Petersburg Academy of Arts. He died in Moscow on December 4, 1898. The Tretyakov Gallery became the first publically accessible museum in Russia in which Russian painting was presented not as disparate works of art, but as a unified whole. Through his nearly half century of art collecting and support of the most talented and brilliant artists, Tretyakov had a tremendous influence on the formation and flourishing of Russian artistic culture in the second half of the nineteenth century.
© Russkiy Mir Foundation. 29 December, 2012