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The State Tretyakov Art Gallery Museum Moscow

Continuing on my Russian adventures, The State Tretyakov Art Gallery is a fine arts museum in Moscow containing over 130,000 exhibits. The museum prides itself as the go-to fine arts gallery in the city of Moscow, Russia. It is the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.

Moreover, the State Tretyakov Gallery is located rather centrally in Moscow city. It is not too far off from the Moscow river and attractions like the Cathedral of Savior. Also, it is a short walk from the nearest Tretyakovskaya Metro station. A statue of Tretyakov sits at the front of the museum courtyard. This courtyard has a small garden

The front courtyard of the Tretyakov Art Gallery
The front courtyard of the Tretyakov Art Gallery.

Notably, the façade of the gallery building was designed by the painter Viktor Vasnetsov in a peculiar Russian patchwork style. Also, it has a rather quirky style, almost like from a fairy-tale with geometric shapes. Notably, it does seem quite out of place of a serious fine arts museum. I guess expressionism has no limits!

Welcome to the expansive galleries
Welcome to the expansive galleries.

Furthermore, entering the building leads you down a stairwell into the basement lobby. Here, you find ticketing counters, gift shops and cloak rooms here. Also, the museum offers a combination of paid entry to permanent and temporary galleries, with the all-inclusive ticket being the more expensive option. Generally you are fine for the regular ticket at 500 Rubles per adult.

Ticketing counters
Entry grand staircase
In the galleries

The galleries

Moreover, if you are into fine arts and Russian paintings, the Tretyakov won’t disappoint. On display is an assortment of paintings (mostly), sculptures and trinkets. From here, your adventure into the galleries being with an understated lonely flights of stairs past a manned ticketing gantry into the pre-gallery information area.

The rather pleasant galleries
The rather pleasant galleries.

Here, it tells you much of the Tretyakov history and how the museum and its current collections came about. Additionally, the internal galleries are large, open and airy. An exploration into the various galleries will set you back about 2-3 hours tops.

Welcome to the galleries
Mix of sculptress in paints

Vast and easy to navigate

Moreover, the halls are well-labeled with gallery numbers at the top of each entrance arch. Also, when paired with a museum map follows a linear path through all the galleries across all two floors of the museum.

Expansive well-lit galleries
Expansive well-lit galleries.

Hence, this makes the galleries pretty easy to navigate. Galleries convene at times into large halls allowing you to take your bearing again. It is difficult to get lost within the galleries.

Gallerias can get pretty packed
Open viewing activity areas
Internal galleries

Moreover, the gallery composition are laid out with a large painting usually taking center piece and smaller pieces arranged around this reference piece on the wall.

Paintings composition
Paintings composition.

Also, it is notable that there is no relative weighs on the placement of the artwork due to importance and is up to you, the interpreter to determine.

Various sculptures
Sculptures in
Got bust?

Moreover, some galleries also feature accompanying sculptures to match the offerings on the walls. Commendably, it does add some variety into what an otherwise picture-only museum.

The thinker?

Some of the paintings are huge, and takes the entire height span of the room. However, I noticed the galleries are tad bit too bright for comfort and for preservation of the paintings. Museums are usually kept dim to slow down the ultra-violent degradation of the paintings.

Vast galleries with huge paintings to boot for all your viewing pleasure
Vast galleries with huge paintings to boot for all your viewing pleasure.

Museum Beginnings

The museum was named after Moscow merchant Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov. He started collecting art from the middle of 1850. However, it was not from 1856 in the gallery’s history where Pavel Tretyakov actually expressed the notion to create a gallery from his collection of acquired works, photos and prints. These are displayed through dedicated permanent and temporary galleries.

Temporary galleries
Prints section
Portraits illustrations

Additionally, on offer is a rare curation of artworks with a unique focus on Russian artists which might later grew into a museum of national art. On August 1892, Tretyakov presented his art gallery to the city of Moscow as a gift.

The collection here in Moscow is almost synonymous to the Guggenheim Museum private art collection in America. A gallery similarly conceived from an art collection of the wealthy. Hence, earning the Tretyakov the title as the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.

Who’s a cheerful one?
Modern art paintings

Notable works

Also, I particularly enjoyed how relatable how some of the works here are recognizable by the average layman. Moreover, Russian artworks here in general tend to focus on the small little things in life. Also, it ranges on scenes from the everyday-street man perspective to more classy family portraits. One such example is Ivan Kramskoi’s Portrait of an Unknown Woman.

Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of an Unknown Woman dated 1883. One of the many iconic portraits in the galleries
Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of an Unknown Woman dated 1883. One of the many iconic portraits in the galleries.

Moreover, another notable piece is one with nature by Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky. Titled Morning in a Pine Forest (1889). It pictures bears in a temperate forest. It is said to be one of the greatest depictions of Russian forests.

Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky, Morning in a Pine Forest (1889)
Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky, Morning in a Pine Forest (1889).

Interestingly, I remembered seeing a replica of this painting in Russian hotels, shopping malls and even areas of popular culture. Little do I know of its Russian origins and little do I expect to see myself looking right at the original piece right here in the Tretyakov museum.

See the sea
See the sea?

Controversial Works

Furthermore, some pieces are more controversial. Examples includes a painting of a rough sea and a piece picturing a pile of skulls by Vasily Vereshchagin called the The Apotheosis of War (1871).

Vasily Vereshchagin, The Apotheosis of War (1871) skulls
Vasily Vereshchagin, The Apotheosis of War (1871) skulls.

In addition to the paintings is a collection of religious artworks. There is an entire gallery dedicated to it with artifacts sitting behind sealed glass.

Religious sections
Artifact gallery

Notable art pieces includes Russian painter’s Andrei Rublev, Trinity (1411). Commendably, the piece is his most famous work and notably the most famous art piece of all Russian icons. Moreover, the 15th century piece is often regarded by critics as one of the highest achievements of early Russian art.

Andrei Rublev, Trinity (1411) on display in the religious galleries
Andrei Rublev, Trinity (1411) on display in the religious galleries.

All in all, the State Tretyakov Gallery offerings of historical Russian fine art makes it a must-see when you are in Moscow. The other notable museum of a similar caliber would be the Moscow Pushkin museum. Also, it provides a different perspective of art which is definitely worth a trip to catch a rare insight to Russian fine art. The museum opens from 10am- 6pm. However, it is closed on Mondays. Also, it is also worth noting that the museum has extended opening hours to 9pm from Thursdays to Saturdays, making it an ideal spot to spend your night out or after your day sightseeing.


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