The State Tretyakov Gallery is the national treasury of Russian fine art and one of the greatest museums in the world. It possesses a unique collection of Russian art which includes masterpieces which span a period of a thousand years. The Gallery's collection consists entirely of Russian art and artists who have made а contribution to the history of Russian art or been closely connected with it. Nowadays it contains more than 170,000 works by Russian artists from early religious paintings to modern art, sculpture and graphics, created throughout the centuries by successive generations of Russian artists. It is located in one of the oldest directs of Moscow – Zamoskvorechye, not far from the Kremlin. The Gallery was founded by a Russian merchant and patron of the arts Pavel Tretyakov. The date of its foundation is usually taken to be 1856 when the young Tretyakov first acquired works by Russian artists of his day with the aim of creating а collection, which might later grow into а museum of national art. "For me, а true and ardent lover of painting, there can be no finer wish than to found а universally accessible repository of the fine arts, which will benefit many and give pleasure to all," wrote the collector in 1860. He donated his collection to the city of Moscow in 1892. The State Tretyakov Gallery has since become a world-famous museum.
The State Tretyakov Gallery possesses a unique collection of Russian art which includes masterpieces which span a period of a thousand years. It boasts the largest collection of Russian art in the world. The museum has two separate buildings. The Old building of the Tretyakov Gallery (located on Lavrushinskiy Pereulok) houses the Russian icons and paintings ranging in date from the 11th to the early 20th century. An exhibition of Russian 20th century art (avan-guard, socialist realism, modern art) is displayed in the new building (Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val).
The facades of the buildings of Tretyakov Gallery located in Zamoskvorechye, resemble the tower-rooms from Russian fairy-tales, so designed by V. Vasnetsov in 1901-1902. The inscription at the main entrance made by ornate lettering, reads as follows: "The State Moscow Art Gallery named after Pavel Mikhailovich and Sergey Mikhailovich Tretyakovs. Founded by P. M. Tretyakov in 1856 and presented to Moscow together with the collection of S. M. Tretyakov as a gift".
One can hardly believe that so huge museum of the universal importance was founded by the single person – P. M. Tretyakov.
The Russian genre painting began with the works by the painter P. Fedotov that urged Tretyakov to the thought of establishing the museum. These paintings impressed him with their simplicity and versatility. And so in 1856 the first step was made – Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov purchased the painting called the "Temptation" from N. Schilder who was the famous academician of the painting at those times. After some time the collection was replenished with the "Skirmish with Finnish smugglers" by Khudyakov. These two pictures underlay the Tretyakov's collection. The so-called exhibitions of the art lovers' Society used to take place in Moscow and those were the places where the collection was replenished from.
Tretyakov started making contacts with artists and could purchase the paintings that were not even completed yet. He believed that the Russian art would have the future and that attention should be paid to this issue. There are following lines in one of the Tretyakov's letters: "Some people do not want to believe in the good future of Russian art and say that even if one of our artists paints a good picture that will be just a pure accident and they only see bothers around them… I have another opinion; otherwise I would not collect Russian paintings…"
In 1871 Tretyakov met Repin in the course of the first in the world mobile exhibition. Tretyakov wanted to introduce all this beauty into masses and was captivated by this idea.
At some point the Tretyakov's mansion could not accommodate the constantly growing collection anymore. Then Tretyakov decides to build the outhouse with its facade facing the Lavrushinskiy lane (it is now the main building of the museum) and this job was completed in 1874. Tretyakov hung up all the paintings on the walls in the halls of the building and announced the gallery as open for visitors. That was his dream came true!
The collection of the gallery was replenished by its workers. Today, one can find the masterpieces of the famous artists such as Andrei Rublev, Dionysius and Theophanous the Greek there. Some 400 artworks of XVIII century were transferred to here from the private collections. Nowadays, more than 57 thousand works of national visual art constitute the priceless collection of the Tretyakov gallery. The Tretyakov gallery is famous for its unique collection of Russian icons. Here you can see mosaics dating back to the 10th-11th centuries, the icon of Our lady of Vladimir, the Trinity by Andrey Rublev and many other famous images. The world shown by mediaeval Russian artists is bright and beautiful. Here are the words of French artist Henry Matisse after he saw an icon exhibition in Moscow "I spent 10 years searching for what your artists already discovered in the 14th century. It is not you who need to come to us to study, but it is we who need to learn from you."
The Moscow inhabitants are proud of their famous museum. M. Gorky wrote: "The Tretyakov gallery is good and significant at the same level as the Arts Theatre, St. Basil's Cathedral and anything best in Moscow". The State Tretyakov Gallery has since become a world-famous museum. Nowadays it contains more than 170,000 works by Russian artists from early religious paintings to modern art.