The Tretyakov State Gallery was founded in 1892 when Pavel Tretyakov, a merchant and patron of the arts, donated his art collection to Moscow city. There are now over 170,000 pieces of art by Russian artists in the Gallery, and the artwork spans about 1,000 years.
And it is absolutely incredible.
Going to the Tretyakov Gallery was up there on my "to-do" list while in Moscow, because of one person: Raissa Vulfovna, who was my Russian Cultural History professor. She is a delightful Russian woman who loves her culture--art, music, literature, dance, etc. There is a rich tradition of beauty in Russia, and she was eager to share it with us.
And I, ever the student, was eager to take it all in.
So imagine my sheer joy and giddiness when I was able to see some of those pieces we talked about with my own eyes. It was just . . . it was a wonderful moment for me.
Rokotov. Portrait of Alexandra Struyskaya (1772). Often called the Russian Mona Lisa.
[Yep. This was pretty much my face the entire time. Megan = really, really happy.]
One painting I was looking forward to seeing was Ivanov's Christ's Appearance to the People. I wasn't sure where to find it (I didn't buy a map . . . call me a lazy museum-goer if you must), but then I turned the corner and wham! There it was.
[It is huge. Absolutely huge. It is a depiction of Christ coming to John the Baptist to be baptized. The entire painting is masterfully done. But what I found incredibly moving were the expressions in the different faces.]
I also wanted to see Kramskoi's Christ in the Wilderness. I actually ended up asking one of the museum workers where it was and she opened up a few of the barriers so I could go straight to it. And I wasn't disappointed.
[It is an extremely moving picture. I think it really captures the idea of the Savior being a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." I have a lot more I could say about it, but I will save that for another time.]
Some more paintings by Kramskoi:
Portrait of Lev Tolstoy.
Portrait of an Unknown Woman. 1883.
Some other paintings I liked:
Life is Everywhere, by Yaroshenko.
Conscience of Judas, by Nikolai Ge
Portrait of Dostoevsky, by Perov
Honestly, being there was like my Russian 330 class come to life. It was so nice to know the history behind these paintings. It made being there much more meaningful to me.
Boyaryna Morozova, by Surikov.
[This painting depicts an episode in Russian history called the Raskol, or the Great Schism. It was a break in the Russian Orthodox Church between Old and New Believers. Some of the arguments included whether or not you should cross yourself with two or three fingers or use two or three "Alleluias" when praising God. It wasn't just a matter of fingers to them--it was a matter of worshiping God in the correct way. The lady being carted away is an Old Believer--you can tell because she is lifting two fingers to heaven. She was a noblewoman who defended what she believed, even though she went to prison and died for it. We sometimes think arguments like this are foolish, but often we do the same thing--we argue and even kill over faith and morals.]
Ivan the Terrible and His Son, Repin.
[Another episode out of Russian history. Ivan the Terrible got into an argument with his favorite son (also named Ivan) whom he had chosen and groomed to be king. In his anger, Ivan the Terrible ended up killing his son. Repin (the artist of this painting) didn't like doing historical paintings, but after the assassination of Alexander II, he felt that this was a way that he could protest against violence.]
[One of my very favorite pieces of Russian art.]
The Tretyakov Gallery is exquisite. I'm so grateful I had the chance to go and hope to be able to go again someday.