May 01, 2006

The Treasury of Russian Art

The Tretyakov Gallery, Russia’s largest collection of national art, turns 150 on May 22, 2006. On this day, a century and a half ago, Moscow merchant Pavel Tretyakov acquired the first paintings in his collection, which today numbers 140,000 pieces.

Dusty, 19th century homes line narrow, winding streets in Moscow’s ancient Zamoskvoreche (literally, “beyond the river”) region. It would be easy to get lost here. Thankfully, near Tretyakovskaya metro station there is a huge sign in Russian and English, pointing the way to the gingerbread building at Lavrushensky pereulok 10: the State Tretyakov Gallery. But even without the sign, an observant and careful traveler could follow the human trickle that daily leads to the statue of Pavel Tretyakov outside the museum’s entrance.

Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery is often overshadowed by St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, which has a larger collection (over three million items) and a significantly more prominent international face. But the Tretyakov is Russia’s cultural icon. Even the most artistically dormant Russians will stop in at the Tretyakov, if only to check whether the pictures they remember from school textbooks – Savrasov’s Rooks Arrived, Shishkin’s A Morning In The Pine Forest and Serov’s Girl With Peaches – really exist. Less dormant souls will spend days here, marveling in their devotion.

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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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