The State Tretyakov Gallery

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The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow is home to more than 170,000 works of art and is one of the largest museums in Russia. This is indeed a rare collection that will give Westerners a glimpse into the development of Russian art from the 10th to the end of the 19th Century. Some of these famous artists includes Kandinsky, Chagall and Malevich to name a few.

The gallery boasts 62 rooms and will take you anything between 2 and 3 hours to work your way through the museum. You will also find early religious paintings,sculptures,drawings, a large collection of Russian Religious Icons and modern art objects.

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Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow

What is so special about  the State Tretyakov Gallery?

I have been privileged to have visited the famous Louvre and the Hermitage Museum a couple of years ago. It is really hard to find a museum that can be compared to these two. I went into the Tretyakov Gallery with an open mind and after the first hall I was speechless. I saw Russian masterpieces that you will not see in the Louvre or even in the Hermitage. This is an exclusive collection that takes you on a journey through time.

A little history about the museum.

A Russian merchant named Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov founded the gallery. The building itself is also historical and was built on an estate in the 17th and 18th centuries. He was an art lover and when he bought it in 1852 moved his whole art collection there. It took him more than 30 years to put this collection together and in 1892 he opened the house as a museum in order for other people to enjoy. It was during this time that he donated the house, including the art collection to the city of Moscow.

When we were walking through the museum I recognized portraits of famous Russian writers like Dostoevskii, Ostrovskii, Turgenev and Tolstoi. Tretiakov can also be credited for acquiring these portraits and in the museum you will find two portraits of the patron himself.

In 1898 he passed away and the house was reconstructed and in 1918 it became the property of the state and received its present name.

My Opinion about the State Tretyakov Gallery:

I enjoyed every minute in this museum. It is a little difficult to understand the importance of the art without proper descriptions in English. My husband pointed out the most famous pieces in the museum that he knows and grew up with. At the entrance of each hall is a basket with laminated information about the artists. This is in Russian and English. In my opinion it will be easier to visit the museum with a guide. I do hope they will add more English descriptions to the art pieces as it will be more valuable for the foreign tourist.

Moscow has “Free Museum” Night” from time-to-time. On these nights you can visit a list of museums for free. It does add up if you are planning to visit other famous museums like the Pushkin Museum. We visited the Tretyakov museum for free but photographs were not allowed on this evening. I sneaked in a couple of photos until I got shouted at by one of the ladies who worked there. It is quite difficult to take photos because they have 3 people in each hall watching the visitors. Luckily for me there were a lot of people on this evening and I managed to put together a video clip and also a brief explanation of the art that I did manage to photograph.

where to find the state tretyakov gallery and museum

Address: 10, Lavrushinsky Lane, Moscow, Russia, 119017

Getting Here: The nearest metro stations are “Tretyakovskaya”, “Novokuznetskaya” and “Polyanka”

Opening times:

  • Thursdays, Fridays: 10.00 am – 09.00 pm (ticket office and last admission until 08.00 pm);
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays: 10.00 am – 06.00 pm (ticket office and last admission until 05.00 pm)
  • day-off Monday

Adults – 450 RUB
Students – 300 RUB

When: 19 May 2012

Where: Moscow, Russian Federation

Famous paintings that I have seen in the museum. Information courtesy of the Tretyakov State Gallery webpage.

1. Portrait of Empress Anna Ioannovna by Louis Caravaque

Empress Anna Ioannovna (1693–1740) was the daughter of Peter the Great’s stepbrother, Tsar Ioann Alekseevich, who by marriage became the Duchess of Courland. She was Empress of Russia beginning in 1730. She is depicted in the kind of formal Imperial portrait that took shape in European art in the 17th century during the age of the Baroque.

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Portrait of Empress Anna Ioannovna by Louis Caravaque.

The artist places the figure of the Sovereign in a palace interior and painstakingly sets down all the attributes of power – a lavish coronation dress over which she wears an ermine mantle, the crown, scepter, and orb displayed on a velvet cushion. The large and heavy figure of Anna Ioannovna has compelled the artist to use a monumental composition. The appearance of the model hardly corresponds to the way she looked in life. Princess N.B. Dolgorukaya wrote about Anna Ioannovna: “… she had a terrifying gaze and an unpleasant face; she was so big that when she walked with courtiers she was head and shoulders above them and exceedingly fat.

Can be seen at  Hall 1

2. Portrait of Countess Ursula Mniszek (1782) by Dimitry Grigorievich Levitsky

Countess Ursula Mniszek (circa 1750 – 1808) was a brilliant aristocrat, a lady of the Russian court, sister of the last Polish king, Stanislav Augustus Poniatowski, and a female knight of the Order of St Catherine. Levitsky used for the portrait an oval format, which was rare in his work but in which the waist-length figure of the model is made to fit in a masterful way.

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Portrait of Countess Ursula Mniszek by Dimitry Grigorievich Levitsky

The colour range is constructed on a cool combination of light blues and radiant pearly tones. With flawless mastery the artist has depicted the heavy satin and transparent lace of the splendid formal dress, the luxuriant locks of powdered hair, the enamel brilliance of the Countess’s eyes. The smooth painterly surface heightens the sensation of cold splendour of the portrait of this flawless and distant heroine, far removed from the artist’s world and from the world of viewers gazing at her portrait.

  Can be seen at Hall 5

3. Life Goes on Everywhere (1888) by Nikolai Aleksandrovich Yaroshenko

 The topic of social contradictions was very important for Yaroshenko. The picture was painted under the impression of a story by Lev Tolstoy entitled What do people cherish in life? The artist originally planned to call his work “Where there is love, there is God.” In the window of a wagon carrying convicts, the prisoners have crowded together as they feed pigeons. The idea of the painting is humanity which is preserved in inhuman conditions.

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Life Goes on Everywhere by Nikolai Aleksandrovich Yaroshenko

The central group reminds us of the Holy Family Like many of the Itinerant (Peredvizhniki) artists, Yaroshenko used parallels from the Gospel to enhance the social resonance of his canvases. “This speaks so very much to the heart,” Lev Tolstoy said about this painting.

Can be seen at Hall 24

4. Heroes (Bogatyri) (1898) by Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov

Having revived the images of Old Russia’s legendary defenders, mighty in their spiritual power, such as Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich, Vasnetsov attempted at the turn of the 20th century to bridge the heroic past of the Russian people and its great future. Concrete as the images might be, the heroes are seen as a mythical epitome of the creative power of the Russian land. Mighty figures on horseback rise like mountains or colossal trees.

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Heroes (Bogatyri) by Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov

The hooves of the heroes’s horses tread on fragile young growth of fir and pine trees: a metaphor for intergenerational continuity. By turning to a pictoral hyperbole, Vasnetsov imparts to his heroes true qualities of Russian nature. Ilya Muromets epitomizes solidity, wise deliberate ways and tapping of experience and traditions of the people. Proud fighting spirit and desire to defend the motherland are embodied in Dobrynya Nikitich. And the image of Alyosha Popovich reflects a poetical, contemplative streak of the Russian soul, sensitivity to all manifestations of beauty.

Can be seen in Hall 26

5. Alyonushka (1881) by Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov 

Not targeting a specific theme or event, Vasnetsov managed to portray in his picture the soul of Russian fairy tale, akin to quiet Mid-Russian nature. The image of Alyonushka, painted with a peasant girl as the model, conveys the suffering of a meek, lonely orphan, abandoned by everybody, who is present in many a tale. She spends an eternity sitting on a white stone, as if turned into stone with suffering, her eyes a mirror of unspoken despair.

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Alyonushka (1881) by Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov

The girl’s eyes pull you in like a whirlpool. The deep dark water, with a shimmering transparent reflection, is pulling at Alyonushka like a magnet. The girl’s figure seems to have been put together using naturally occurring shapes, dying evening colours and foliage patterns, to project a distilled inward-turned sadness of autumn nature, which takes care to conceal and safeguard the heroine. Nature consoles her like a mother consoles her baby. Landscape motifs are suggested by poetical folklore images, for example the swallows that are gathered on a twig above Alyonushka’s head as good message bringers, while the fluttering aspens are a symbol of bad luck.

Can be seen in Hall 26

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I have been fortunate to have done quite a bit of travelling over the last 10 years. By heart I am an adventurer and I love exploring new places, cultures and food. Travelling can become stressful and expensive. Over the years I have learnt to travel as cost effective as possible, simply by travelling more clever. Nelmitravel.com is a Adventure and Budget Travel site where I review Airlines, Accommodation, Transport, Restaurants and give helpful travel information.

4 Comments

  1. What an experience this must have been Nelieta! I would love to see the art in this museum. Thank you for sharing.

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