- The Russian Museum
Now the world's largest repository of Russian art, the Russian Museum was founded in 1895 and opened to the public in 1898 as "Emperor Alexander III's Imperial Museum of Russian Art".
The Russian Museum is housed in the Mikhailovsky Palace, built between 1819 and 1825 by Carlo Rossi for Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich. Unfortunately, the main staircase and the White-Columned Hall are the only interior areas which survive in their original form. The decor of the other rooms was lost during the reconstruction of the palace as a public museum (architect Vasily Svinin). The western wing, named after its chief architect Leonty Benois (assisted by Sergei Ovsiannikov), was constructed between 1914 and 1919 to accommodate the rapidly expanding collections. It now hosts all the modern Russian art.
Originally the museum's exhibits were mainly works from the Hermitage and a few private donations totalling no more than 1500 works. After the 1917 revolution, its stocks were considerably increased following the nationalization of private collections and the destruction of many churches. By the decade after the revolution the size of the collection had been greatly multiplied.
Today the Russian Museum totals over 400,000 units of storage, illustrating the development of Russian art from Byzantine icon-painting of the 11th century to the varied avant-garde experiments of the early 20th Century. It boasts superb collections of Russian and Soviet paintings, one of Russia's finest collections of sculpture and graphic art, and works of applied, decorative and folk art.
- The Russian Museum
The Department of Early Russian Art takes pride in its world-famous icon paintings by Andrei Rublev, Dionysius and Simon Ushakov. It also boasts old wooden sculptures, stone and bone carvings, embroideries and jewellery. Especially rich and varied is the exhibition devoted to the art of the 18th and early 19th century. It displays works by the first secular artists of Peter the Great's time, Ivan Nikitin, Andrei Matveyev and Ivan Vishniakov; profound portraits by Fedor Rokotov, Dmitry Levitsky, Vladimir Borovikovsky and Orest Kiprensky; canvases by Alexei Venetsianovr, Karl Briullov, Alexander Ivanov, Pavel Fedotov; and sculptures by Fedot Shubin, Mikhail Kozlovsky and Ivan Martos.
The second half of the 19th century is represented by the 'Wanderers' (members of the Society for Circulating Art Exhibitions), Ilya Repin and Vasily Surikov. The late 19th and early 20th centuries are featured in numerous works by Isaac Levitan, Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel, Konstantin Korovin, Mikhail Nesterov, artists of the Silver Age and the Russian avant-garde -groups such as the World of Art, Blue Rose and Jack of Diamonds, as well as Wassily Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Marc Chagall and Pavel Filonov.
The exhibition of the Department of Soviet Art includes canvases and sculptures by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Arkady Rylov, Nikolai Krymov, Alexander Matveyev, Anna Golubkina, Vera Mukhina, Sergei Konenkov, Peter Konchalovsky, Sergei Gerasimov, Alexander Deineka, Arkady Plastov and many others. Large exhibitions of folk art and the art of the turn of the century have recently been opened.
Temporary exhibitions from the museum's reserves and other Russian and foreign collections are regularly held in the halls of the Benois Wing.