Throughout most of Russia's history, art, music, literature, and history were either folk art or that of the Orthodox Church. The reason for this is that during the Renaissance, Russia was a hegemony of the Mongol-Tatar Empire and thus missed the rebirth of the arts which swept Western Europe. Peter I and Catherine II changed all that with the secularization of Russian culture in the 18th century. Russian artists, however, have always had to leave Russia to escape realism imposed on them by the Russian critics and art world. Chagal, Kandinsky, and many other progressive artists could only develop their art in Western Europe. This page contains a growing list of sources on Russian art: folk, ecclesiastical, and secular.
The History of Russian Art
Alexander Boguslawski of Rollins College maintains a wonderfully rich site describing and illustrating the history of Russian art from the icons to the 20th century. The site discusses periods, artists, schools, and trends. It is beautifully designed and laid out so as to be easily navigated. Everything you want to know about Russian art, including the art itself, may be found here. Boguslawski has now added an equally splendid exhibit and treatise on Russian lubok folk painting.
At last the home of the world's second largest and most impressive collection of art is on-line. The Hermitage web site does not give you the effect of a two-day visit to the museum itself, but it is a large and complex site worthy of its origin. There are excursions through the Menshikov Palace and the Palace of Peter I, lectures, exhibits and much more. A rich and exciting resource.
19th Century Russian Painting
George Mitrevski has provided an electronic gallery of the masterpieces of Russian 19th century paintings. The images are best viewed on a Mac; if you are using a PC and the pictures are dark, download them and view them in L-View or some other viewer which allows you to increase the brightness. Sergei Naoumov has put up an exhibit of his favorite 19th century paiter, I. K. Avazovski, and S. V. Ivanov.
Gallery of I. K. Aivazovsky
Sergei Naumouv has been kind enough to share an old picture book with us. Aivazovsky was Russia's premier seascape painter.
The Andrei Rublyov Museum
At present this museum, named after the great Russian medieval icon painter, has in its possession a collection of 14th - 19th century icons of the Moscow, Tver and Northern schools, fragments of monumental painting, early Russian wooden sculptures and facsimile copies of frescoes. Click here for a short biography.
Art Galleries and Museums of Moscow
This is a list of the addresses and telephone numbers of the major galleries and museums of Moscow.
Art Galleries and Museums of St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is packed full of architectural and cultural wonders with enough palaces, museums, and sights to overwhelm even the hungriest of culture-vultures. The Hermitage, of course, is the centerpiece of Petersburg's museum scene but there are plenty of other museums covering a wide variety of topics and interests. Unfortunately several lesser-known museums are closing, some due to lack of interest and funding (like the Communications Museum), others (such as the Central Lenin Museum and the History of the Young Communist League Museum) for ideological reasons.
The Russian Empire, 1895-1910
Photographs from the stereoscopic negatives of the Keystone-Mast Collection of the California Museum of Photography, University of California Riverside. This is a selection of the 900 photographs of Russian archiecture and other historical objects taken between 1895-1910 before Stalin's decree on monumental art which led to the destruction of many of these objects.
The New Gallery (Socialist Realism)
The "New Gallery" specializes on Soviet art of Socialist Realism of the 1920-1950-s. It functions as closed gallery, art foundation, collecting works of art and preparing them for further exhibitions and auctions as well as for decorating offices and living quarters. A good source for paintings, drawings, and posters from the Soveit period.
From the Funet Russian Archive in Finland--a small collection of Soviet posters from the Revolution to World War II.
The State Tretyakov Gallery
The Tretyakov Gallery dates from 1856, when the purchase of Nikolai Schilder's painting The Temptation laid the foundation for the collecting activities of the Moscow merchant, Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898). The collector's brother, Sergei Tretyakov, was also a connoisseur of art who collected pictures not only by Russian, but also by French and Dutch painters. In 1892 Pavel Tretyakov presented his collection, by that time already famous, to the city of Moscow. Here is another short page on the subject.