185 years ago, on 27 December 1832, Pavel Tretiakov was born to a successful merchant and on his father’s death in 1850, Pavel inherited the family business. He did well, trading in flax, linen processing and textiles. So well, in fact, that when the opportunity arose, he teamed up with other Moscow businessmen to found the Moscow Merchant Bank and several other large companies. And so his fortune grew. But what would a man do with such wealth?
Well, it just so happened that Pavel Tretiakov had a passion for art. He’d already started to amass an impressive private collection. At just 22 years of age, he’d bought ten canvases by Dutch masters with a view to one day opening an art gallery in which to hang them. With the newly acquired fortune, the family bought a house on Lavrushinsky Lane, which at the time was a magnet for merchants.
Tretiakov took the decision to build up a portfolio of artists that showed the beginnings and the development of Russian art. Among the artists featured in the collection were V.G. Perov, I.N. Kramskoi, Ilya Repin, Vasily Surikov, I.I. Levitan, and Valentin Serov. He figured a portrait gallery would also be popular, so he began to collect portraits of the local VIPs of the day. Icons also fascinated him, and so yet more works of art made their way to Lavrushinsky Lane.
As Pavel’s collection swelled, it outgrew the house, necessitating the construction of several outbuildings to accommodate the many paintings and sketches that had been acquired. He proudly donated the collection to the Russian nation in the early 1890s, but was to die a few short years after the museum opened. After his death on 16 December 1898, an architect redesigned the private house to transform it into the gallery we see today.
These days, that gallery is more popular than ever. It’s no longer merely the private collection of one single passionate man. Check out, for instance, the embroidered hanging shroud that once graced the sewing room of Ivan the Terrible’s first wife. Donated by the Tsar and Tsarina to the Suzdal-Pokrovsky monastery, they’re now on display at the Tretiakov Gallery.
Many visitors to the gallery pause outside to pay their respects to the man whose brainchild it was. His statue stands proudly out front to welcome art lovers from around the world. Why not be one of them? Sign up in advance for a guided tour or pick up an audio guide on arrival.