The Russian Museum in St. Petersburg is one of the largest and most visited museums in Russia. The huge exposition occupies several buildings and offers more than 400,000 exhibits from the 9th to the 20th century - in one museum you can see how painting and applied art developed from century to century, how styles and visions of beauty changed, and get acquainted with religious works of worldwide famous Russian masters. If you want to plunge into the mysterious, fabulous and extraordinary world of Russian painting, feel free to go to the museum - you can walk through the halls on your own, join the tour or use the audio guide!
The main building of the museum is located on Inzhenernaya Street, 4, near Gostiny Dvor and Nevsky Prospect metro stations (literally a couple of minutes’ walk). The entrance to the main building is on the side of the Arts Square, and the entrance to the Benoit building is from the Griboyedov Canal.
Tuesday is a day off at the museum, and the doors are closed on December 31 and January 1. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday the museum is open from 10:00 a.m. till 6:00 p.m., and on Thursday the museum works until 21:00. The ticket office closes half an hour before the museum closes.
A big plus of the Russian Museum is that even at the peak of the tourist season there are far fewer people in it than in the Hermitage. Therefore, the halls are not so crowded and very calm, especially in the afternoon on Thursday and Friday. If you are on one of the “crowded” days, start visiting from the Benoit building - you will move towards the main stream of visitors and you will be able to view more exhibits. It is quite difficult to see the whole museum within one day – the size is simply huge, so it is better to choose one or two subjects and visit the corresponding halls during one visit.
The exhibition complex history began with Alexander III, who had the idea to create a museum of art by Russian masters. The monarch himself failed to realize the idea, but his son, Emperor Nicholas II, succeeded. The museum was established by his decree in 1895, and on March 7, 1898, the museum received visitors and became the first museum of painting in Russia.
The collection began with 80 paintings donated by the Hermitage, 120 canvases from the Academy of Arts and 200 works from the monarch country residences. The exhibition was placed in the Mikhailovsky Palace. Further, the exposition was expanded through private collections and exhibits purchased at auctions.
The Mikhailovsky Palace, which became the first “home” of the museum, was built in 1819-1825 for the younger heir to Paul I, Mikhail Pavlovich. Years later, the palace was sold and transferred to the “Russian Museum of Emperor Alexander III” and re-equipped inside as exhibition halls.
By 1914, there was not enough space in the castle for all the exhibits, and three years later, the Benois project began the construction of a building of the same name on the embankment of the Griboyedov Canal — today, paintings of Soviet-era art and the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century are exhibited in the Benois building. The revolution brought many new exhibits to the museum due to the nationalization of cultural values.
During World War II, the exhibits were transported to Perm, and everything that could not be taken out was hidden in the cellars of the Mikhailovsky Palace. Both the palace and the corps of Benoit were seriously destroyed during the bombing, but on May 9, 1946 the museum reopened its doors to visitors in honor of the first anniversary of the victory. In 1992, the museum was recognized as a particularly valuable cultural heritage of Russia by presidential decree.
Nowadays, the Museum takes part in international auctions, which allows it to regularly replenish the collections of Old Russian painting, applied art, sculpture, drawing, engravings, numismatic exhibits and handicrafts.
The world famous painting is dedicated to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. For the first time the canvas was presented in 1833 in Milan, and since then the artist Bryullov became an object of worship in Italy - not a single master has received such fame since the times of the Renaissance. Passersby took off their hats in front of Karl Bryullov, the audience in the theater got up when he entered the hall, and his house was a place of pilgrimage for lovers of fine art.
The amazing canvas by Ivan Aivazovsky was painted in four colors - red, yellow, green and brown. All smooth transitions and rich colorful effects created only by mixing four shades. The artist himself is unique - he possessed an exceptional visual memory and most of his paintings were painted without nature, only from conditional sketches. This amazing ability helped him to work so quickly that he could write a perfect sea view in just two hours, and he wrote over six thousand canvases during his life!
This painting was created in 1891, and the artist’s acquaintances and friends posed for her. For example, the Cossack in a white hat-papakha was written with Vladimir Gilyarovsky, the traveler and the writer.
Few people know that the picture has two “sisters” – the first one was painted in 1887 and is exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery, and the second is shown in the Kharkov Art Museum, in the artist’s homeland.
Another amazing painting by Repin and the only painting written on a fairy tale in the technique of impressionism, with which he met in France during his travels. Shortly after writing some of the paintings, Repin departed from impressionism, although he was foreseen great fame in this direction among the artists. The prototype of Sadko was a close friend of the master - the artist Vasnetsov.
The canvas was written in 1882 and differs from its "brothers" in that the hero turns his back to the audience. In versions of the paintings from 1878 and 1879, the knight looks at the audience from the canvas. The first version of the painting is kept in the Serpukhov Museum of History and Art, and the second is in a private collection of an American collector since 1904.
This is truly an amazing canvas, which in 1880 was devoted to an entire exhibition - in a dark room, viewers were surprised to see a single picture, on which the moon was burning so brightly that it was hard to believe that it was paint. Skeptics diligently searched for a light bulb or other light source behind the canvas, but the whole secret of the “glowing” moon was enclosed in a technique of working with shades - the master managed to portray the luminary so realistically that the work is amazing and is still considered a real masterpiece.
In order to find a suitable plot for his picture, Surikov went to Switzerland and visited all the passes, which in 1799 the army passed under the command of the famous Generalissimo. The artist not only sketched landscape for his work, but also rolled over ice and snow in order to understand the speed of movement and determine suitable poses for the characters. The picture was put on public display in 1899 in honor of the centenary of Suvorov's military feat.
Venetsianov began to paint his picture in 1822 and worked on it in the present threshing-floor — the room where bread was threshed. The artist really wanted to make the characters alive, and the prospect - deep and naturalistic, so to clearly convey the lighting, he ordered the front wall to be cut down. In 1824, Alexander I saw the canvas and included it in the catalog of the Imperial Hermitage. By the way, Venetsianov is considered one of the founders of Russian household painting, which showed the life of the peasants.
The idea of this canvas was given to Surikov by warm memories from childhood. On the last day of Shrovetide in the village people built a snow town and flooded it with water, and the players were divided into teams - the first team attacked, and the second defended the town with brooms and branches. The game ended when the town was completely destroyed.
Vasily Polenov was excited about the idea of creating a picture in which Christ had already entered the world and made his way among the people, even in his youth. His first sketches for the future picture were made in the 1870s, but this work stopped and continued only in 1881. For inspiration, the artist went to the Middle East and brought with him sketches from Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Palestine - they became the basis for creating an architectural and landscape composition. For the characters, Polenov went to Italy, where he painted portraits of Italian Jews. Returning to Russia, the artist created a full-size sketch, and in the subsequent years 1886-1887 he wrote the final version of the painting. After the exhibition in 1887, the painting was bought by Alexander the Third.