Pavel Tretyakov: The Collector’s Library

Zoya Shergina

Magazine issue: 
#2 2011 (31)

Once more the fingers touched the cherished pages;
My heart is stirred again - I’m aflutter,
What if a wind or other person’s hand
Dash the withered flowers I thought I’d hidden for ages.

Afanasy Fet

On the history of the collection of books in the
Tretyakov Gallery’s academic library

In agreement with Pavel Tretyakov’s will, after his death in 1898, some of the books from his personal library became the property of the gallery, which had earlier been donated to the city of Moscow. There are several surviving documents that refer to this transfer. The most important is a 19-sheet “Inventory of Pavel Tretyakov’s Library”, rounded off with a handwritten note confirming that “the books and art publications listed herein were delivered by Pavel Tretyakov’s heir and included into the library of the Gallery of brothers Pavel and Sergei Tretyakov on November 1 1899”, signed by Ilya Ostroukhov and Yegor Khruslov1. This date can be regarded as the founding date of the modern academic library of the Tretyakov Gallery. Over time Tretyakov’s personal collection of books was complemented with a large number of publications acquired later. Today it is kept as a separate memorial fund2 - what sort of book collection had it been, and what part of it is deposited in the academic library?

To answer this question, apart from the already mentioned “Inventory” the following sources are relevant: an undated two-sheet listing of books written in pencil by Pavel Tretyakov himself3; a catalogue of Pavel Tretyakov’s library, compiled by the gallery’s custodian Nikolai Chernogubov4 and printed in 1905; stock books of the Tretyakov Gallery’s academic library; and Tretyakov’s correspondence, different memoirs and, finally, the books themselves.

The above-mentioned sources differ considerably from one another in terms of content. The 1899 “Inventory” includes albums, books and brochures. The 1905 catalogue of books, however, does not include brochures (that some of them originated from Tretyakov’s library can be inferred from the signature presentation inscriptions).

The printed catalogue of Tretyakov’s library lists about 360 items — books and magazines. These are mostly studies on religious archaeology, albums of artwork of Russian and international artists, essays on general history and history of art, and publications focused on private and museum collections. As for fiction, of which Pavel Tretyakov and all his family were great lovers, almost all of those books, excluding a few well-illustrated volumes, remained in possession of the heirs.

The listing of books pencilled by Tretyakov mostly includes publications of Russian and international classic authors. Also, historical monographs such as “History of the Russian State” by Nikolai Karamzin and “Russian Army Commanders”, “History of Consulship”, “History of Christianity”, as well as periodicals such as “Otechestvennye Zapiski” (“Annals of the Fatherland”), “Vestnik Istoricheskikh Nauk” (“Newsletter of Historical Science”), “ Sovremennik” (“The Contemporary”), and “Panteon” (“Pantheon”). Some books have a hand-written note “for the summer house”. None of these books and magazines were included in the gallery’s library. An analysis and comparison of sources suggests that only a small portion of the Tretyakovs’ large family library — the items that the solicitors thought of as “art publications” — was deposited with the gallery.

The books from Pavel Tretyakov’s fund are neither numerous nor distinguished by a rich design. At that time publications were often sold without covers, and it was left to the purchasers to commission covers depending on their taste and financial resources. Most of Tretyakov’s books feature modest semi-leather English bindings, with marbled paper slipcases of the “Russian speckled” variety, of malachite colour, with cloth corner-pieces and very modest gilt on the spine, without vignettes or gilt edges. This is not the library of a bibliophile but of a researcher, a collector who relied on books for the knowledge he needed about history of art and culture, and for guidance in his collecting.

The future collector took to reading in his childhood, when he spent every spare moment he had with a book. The first things he ever bought were books, luboks (folk prints) and ancient engravings. At that time Tretyakov frequented the Sukharevsky market, where one could buy priceless books and art pieces. Later, he would visit libraries during his travelling and visiting museums and private collections.

The gallery’s academic library has a “Catalogue of the Picture Gallery of Privy Councillor Fyodor Ivanovich Pryanishnikov” (St. Petersburg, 1853). In the mid-19th century Pryanishnikov’s collection was the best private collection of Russian art, and its owner intended to sell it. When the 22-year-old Pavel Tretyakov learned about this collection in 1854, it became a fateful moment for him — he set his mind on a goal to the pursuit of which he would devote his entire life: creating a public museum to showcase works of Russian artists, and acquiring, to this end, Pryanishnikov’s collection and complementing it with a collection he would put together in the future. Tretyakov did not buy Pryanishnikov’s collection5, but he attained the goal of creating a gallery of Russian art.

In 1865 Pavel Tretyakov married Vera Nikolaevna Mamontova, a cousin of the renowned patron of arts, collector and man of theatre Savva Mamontov. The family grew to six children, and family life was filled with goodness and love for art and literature. Tretyakov was a great theatre aficionado, while Vera, a fine pianist, introduced music into the household. The collection of paintings, and the music parties organised by Vera made the house a magnet for many cultural figures. The guests included musicians Nikolai and Anton Rubinstein, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and even European performers.

Often the members of the family would come together and read a book aloud, then discuss it. Pavel Tretyakov was reading always something at any time. Vera Pavlovna Ziloti writes in a memoir that her father would begin his day with reading — “he rose with the lark, then read ‘madly’, after tea went to the office, then to the store”6. Nikolai Mudrogel, a Tretyakov employee whose entire life was linked to the gallery, reminisced that during an afternoon meal or while having tea Pavel Tretyakov would always have a book or a newspaper with him. “Once in a cab, Pavel Mikhailovich immediately picked up a book or a magazine and read it during the ten- or fifteen-minute ride to the bank”, and in the evening “.. .in his study he sat up until late at night, reading and making notes”7. Tretyakov loathed idleness, and in summer reading was his preferred pastime during days of rest. “On Sundays he stayed in the summer house, and after breakfast he usually took a small bag with sandwiches, a bottle of milk and books, walked alone into the forest and, taking refuge in a deserted place, spent a whole day reading”8.

As Vera Ziloti reminisced: “In the centre of the drawing room stood a big round table with heavy morocco, with bronze clasps, with the albums of famed European galleries”9. Much reading was done in the summer house as well: “I remember that at the table there was no end to conversations about books, which were aplenty in our home in Kuntsevo.”10.

She wrote that her parents “conversed about politics, topics of the day and, above anything else, about new books. One by one came out [Andrei] Pechersky’s ‘In the Forests’ and ‘On the Hills’; Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’; the writings of Dostoevsky and Turgenev; everyone was reading ‘Vestnik Evropy’ [Messenger of Europe], ‘Russky Vestnik’ [Russian Messenger] and ‘Otechestvennye zapiski’”11. Foreign literature was also read: William Shakespeare, William Thackeray, Alexander Dumas.

Pavel Tretyakov knew many writers personally. The Tretyakovs played host to such people as Ivan Turgenev, and the Slavophiles such as the Cherkasskys, the Baranovs, the Shcherbatovs, the Aksakovs, and the Stankevichs. Pavel Tretyakov was on a friendly footing with Dmitry Grigorovich, Afanasy Fet, and Ivan Goncharov.

Tretyakov knew Leo Tolstoy personally. Vera Ziloti writes: “In the early ‘80s father talked ever more often about his meetings with Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy: one day the latter called by to talk with our father, another day, father made a visit to Lev Nikolaevich. Their discourse always revolved around their opinions and views on doing good, on philanthropy, tolerance, non-resistance to evil, on art, religion . We read avidly his writings and listened eagerly when father recounted his conversations with Tolstoy; they argued nearly all the time. Once father said to Tolstoy: ‘When you, Lev Nikolaevich, learn to forgive harm caused to you, then I’ll believe in the sincerity of your teaching about nonresistance to evil’. With these words, father smiled slyly but good-naturedly.”12 She continues: “Our father held Tolstoy in reverence as a novelist and great writer. But there was much less reverence in him for Tolstoy as a ‘philosopher’.”13 Pavel Tretyakov and Tolstoy exchanged letters regularly. In letters, they debated the meaning of art and concepts of Christian art, whose greatest achievement, Tretyakov believed, was Kramskoi’s painting “Christ in the Wilderness”.

Especially fond of Dostoevsky, Tretyakov maintained a correspondence with him although the two never met in person. “None of the writers exercised a stronger spiritual and moral influence on Pavel Mikhailovich and Vera Nikolaevna than Dostoevsky”14.

During a journey to Crimea in 1879 Ziloti recorded in her diary: “...I read with him Dostoevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, Marcellus, ‘Le bleu du bonheur’ by Sacher-Masoch. These writings occasioned long conversations between him and me and increased our intimacy so greatly that we loved each other much stronger than before.”15

Members of the Tretyakov family knew all of Dostoevsky’s works, reading each immediately after publication, and reading and re-reading them throughout a year. Grieving over the writer’s death, Tretyakov felt enormously sorry for not having found time to meet him in person.

Pavel Tretyakov was fond of the verse of Apollon Maikov, Yakov Polonsky, and Nikolai Nekrasov. “Pavel Mikhailovich held in high esteem the poetry of [Afanasy] Fet. Not to mention short poems which he recalled and quoted, I remember often seeing him with a big tome of translations of Ovid in his hands.”16 There are also some notes concerning Saltykov-Shchedrin: “A colossal talent! ... I rank him very high.”17.

Philosopher Vladimir Soloviev interested him greatly as well.

Tretyakov’s employees, too, were regular readers. S. Rakovsky and G. Deltsov recollected “friendly relations between the employees at the office: how many books they read aloud, how Pavel Mikhailovich, on his staff’s request, asked Sofia Andreevna Tolstoy to send them ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’, and she obliged”18. The linen plant in Kostroma, co-owned by Tretyakov, had a reading-room, in addition to an in-patient clinic and a school for workers.

Until his last days, Pavel Tretyakov kept track of new books and magazine publications. It was no accident that when he set out to create a gallery of portraits of prominent people of Russia, portraits of Russian writers were accorded a central position. Tretyakov commissioned and purchased portraits of Russian men of letters. His collection included Vasily Perov’s portraits of Dostoevsky, Maikov, Turgenev, Mikhail Pogodin, Vladimir Dal, and Alexander Ostrovsky; Ivan Kramskoi’s images of Ivan Goncharov, Nekrasov, Leo Tolstoy, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Dmitry Grigorovich, Yakov Polonsky, Taras Shevchenko, Alexander Griboedov, and Sergei Aksakov; Fyodor Moller’s portrait of Nikolai Gogol; Ilya Repin’s of Alexei Pisemsky; Nikolai Ghe’s of Alexander Herzen; Stepan Alexandrovsky’s of Fyodor Tyutchev, and others. The creation of a gallery of portraits of Russia’s writers and prominent personalities was Tretyakov’s priceless contribution to the history of Russian culture.

The second half of the 19th century witnessed vigorous debates over the direction of Russian culture and art. Various research societies were set up and numerous scholarly journals were published to summarise the knowledge accumulated. Certainly, Tretyakov could not have remained indifferent to those activities. Nearly all books from Tretyakov’s personal library are rarities, and often single copies of a particular publication are now to be found in the gallery’s library. Thanks to Tretyakov the academic library has such rare books of the late 18th-early 19th centuries as “The Bible published in St. Petersburg in 1751; the Old Testament with illustrations published by F. Pryanishnikov and A. Sapozhnikov in St. Petersburg in 1846”; “Peter the Great. His Army Chiefs and Ministers. 23 Portraits With Their Brief Biographies Appended”, Moscow, 1848; “Historical Russian Album for 1837” (Moscow, presumably from 1837). These holdings include tomes that have relevance even today, such as Petr Petrov’s reference book on the history of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, Fyodor Bulgakov’s “Our Artists”, and many others.

Pavel Tretyakov was apparently greatly interested in old manuscripts, a fact that is confirmed by a great many small print-run publications of the Society of Lovers of Ancient Written Languages, whose purpose was finding, collecting and publishing copies of ancient manuscripts. The library boasts five priceless hand-written illuminated books with hand-made coloured illustrations, previously in the possession of Tretyakov. Each is unique in its own way: the mid-17th century “Serbian Alexandria” (a Russian translation of the so-called “Alexander Romance”), “Collection of the Life Stories of Saints From Uglich, Written After 1784”, “Teaching of Monk Palladius” published in the second half of the 18th century, and two editions of “Revelations” — one from the 18th, the other from the 19th century. These manuscripts have been the focus of a separate study.19

Vyacheslav Shchepkin, a scholar of old Russian literature and a palaeographer who founded the department of manuscripts and ancient printed books at the Russian History Museum, gifted his treatise about illuminated books to the collector, which is evidenced by the presentation signature Shchepkin inscribed on the book.

Tretyakov’s fund contains works by Fyodor Buslaev, the founder of the iconographic method who formulated the fundamental concepts of Byzantine and Old Russian art and who was a proponent of the idea of mutual penetration of visual art, on the one hand, and literature and poetry, on the other.

Tretyakov developed a passion for Russian antiquity, relics of the past, architectural landmarks, and icons long before he started collecting Old Russian art. This is evidenced by the presence in his library of such books as “Antiquities of the Russian State”, “Christian Antiquities and Archaeology”, and “Russian Antiquity in the Landmarks of Religious and Lay Architecture”.

Tretyakov was also interested in the publications of the Society of Old Russian Art managed by the Rumyantsev Museum, a public museum in Moscow: in these publications icons were explored as artefacts of Old Russian art. Tretyakov keenly watched new publications devoted to Old Russian art, acquiring and reading nearly all of them.

Tretyakov’s avid interest in the history of Russian culture and the tenor of everyday life in the past is evidenced by such items from his library as the in-depth studies on archaeology and the history of everyday life and clothes authored by Vasily Prokhorov, a custodian of the Christianity Museum under the auspices of the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

The end of the 19th century saw the emergence of the Russian national style in architecture. The notion of the national uniqueness of Old Russian architecture, championed by the architect Vladimir Suslov, provoked a sympathetic response in Tretyakov. The presence of Suslov’s monographs in the library alongside other architectural antiquities of Rus and some monographs on the history of architecture and the everyday life in and around the city of Vladimir, supplied with prints of Ivan Golushev’s drawings produced in the artist’s own lithograph-making shop is evidence of Tretyakov’s keen interest in the subject.

With his mind set on the creation of a national museum, Tretyakov could not have ignored publications devoted to Russian artists. The books he bought for his library included albums with prints of the works of Alexander Agin, Ivan Shishkin, Fyodor Tolstoy, Vasily Vereshchagin, Ivan Kramskoi, and Grigory Myasoedov, as well as new illustrated publications devoted to Karl Briullov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Pavel Fedotov, Ilya Repin, and other artists. It was not long before Tretyakov’s collection of paintings began to look more like a museum collection, and the family home to resemble a gallery. Tretyakov even would sometimes wash the paintings and coat them with varnish himself. Very likely, in doing so he relied on a “How-To Guide...,” a handbook published for students of the Stroganov Art School (Moscow, 1890).

Tretyakov was an eager explorer of Western European culture and art. He used to set out on long journeys, making a tour of European countries. He liked to go sightseeing on foot and always kept a Baedeker’s guidebook for tourists with him.

Tretyakov brought books back from every trip. Alexandra Pavlovna Botkina described the drawing room in her father’s home: “In the centre of the room stood ... a table ... on which albums and books were piled up. Elephantine albums with photographs of paintings from the famed galleries in Madrid, Dresden and Munich. There would be an album with cards of Russian and foreign historical figures, writers, composers and artists. These included de Richelieu, Napoleon, Balzac, Chopin, Liszt, Aldridge, the dancer Lebedeva. One could pass hours examining them. There were tomes with gilt over red. Goethe’s female characters in Kaulbach’s illustrations, ‘Faust’ with Engelbert Seibertz’s illustrations, the Bible illustrated by Gustave Dore, and our favourite fairy tales by Charles Perrault, translated by Turgenev and illustrated by Dore.”20 All these luxurious tomes were kept by the heirs; from the entire list, only the “Bible, in three volumes, illustrated by Dore (St. Petersburg, 1876-1878)” was deposited with the academic library.

Tretyakov’s books include general studies on the history of international art in Russian and French. Tretyakov learned French to be able to locate Russia within the context of the development of world culture. It was not a rare case that he would give pictures from his collection on loan for exhibitions in Europe to promote international recognition of Russian art. At the 1872 International Exhibition in London, the paintings by the “Peredvizhniki” (Wanderers) artists supplied by Tretyakov were called by critics “Tretyakov’s school”.

Hardly any of the printed matter related to the exhibitions is listed either in the 1899 inventory or in the 1905 library catalogue. Presumably, publications of this sort were regarded as of temporary interest and of little value. Yet, several extant autographed catalogues of exhibitions found among the holdings indicate that such booklets did exist.

The academic library contains several publications with Vasily Vereshchagin’s signatures. Vereshchagin’s interests reached beyond painting, and he travelled much and wrote literary pieces. Vereshchagin’s books with presentation inscriptions shed an interesting sidelight on the story of how Tretyakov purchased this artist’s works21.

Prominent among the holdings of Tretyakov’s library are treatises by Dmitry Rovinsky. Rovinsky knew Tretyakov well, maintained a correspondence with him, and visited the gallery. Rovinsky was an avid collector of luboks and prints of the paintings of Russian and international artists; a special place in his collection was occupied by prints of Rembrandt’s pictures. Having put together, systematized and studied a sizable collection, Rovinsky started publishing the pictures, accompanying the prints with his academic commentary. Tretyakov held a copy of nearly each of Rovinsky’s publications, presented by the publisher himself. Released in small numbers, all these books are bibliographic rarities valued to this day.

The publication of Rovinsky’s collection of luboks — “Russian Folk Art Pictures” (St. Petersburg, 1881-1893) — became a veritable encyclopaedia of popular life. The undertaking was continued in the “Papers on Russian Iconography” in 12 volumes (St. Petersburg, 1884-1891). The Tretyakov Gallery’s Department of Manuscripts holds a letter from Rovinsky to Tretyakov: “I am sending you the last six volumes of the ‘Papers on Russian Iconography’. They have not been approved ‘for release’ yet and it is unlikely that the whole set will be, so I ask you to keep them in secret until a certain time.”22 Marked by a wide-ranging approach to the subject and comprehensiveness of the material included, dictionaries of Russian engraved portraits compiled by Rovinsky23 were scholarly reference publications of unmatched quality. These tomes to this day remain indispensable for every researcher of Russian history and art.

Some of Rovinsky’s books in Tretyakov’s library carry the author’s autographs. The cover of the album “Chemesov, the Russian Engraver” (St. Petersburg, 1878) has Rovinsky’s inscription that reads: “To Tretyakov. Keep it. D.R.”. The pages carry proofreading corrections inked by the author.

Rovinsky was on a friendly footing with Pavel Tretyakov’s brother Sergei Mikhailovich, also a collector, but focused, unlike his brother, mostly on European art. “I visited Sergei Mikhailovich myself; I talked with him on and on to my heart’s content and handed him the Rembrandt,”24 wrote Rovinsky to Tretyakov on February 6 1891. The Rembrandt in question is a collection of prints of Rembrandt’s and his students’ pieces, supplied with Rovinsky’s erudite commentary and published by him.

Rovinsky tried to interest Tretyakov in Russian engravings, believing that a collection of engravings would make a fine complement to his assembly of paintings. Tretyakov heeded Rovinsky’s advice. The exhibition room devoted to drawings and prints was opened in Tretyakov’s gallery in the autumn of 1887.

Rovinsky spearheaded the publication of a book about Vasily Perov’s art (“Vasily Perov. His Life and Oeuvre”, St. Petersburg, 1892). Tretyakov was actively engaged in the project. In a letter to Tretyakov of August 16 1890 Rovinsky wrote that he would not commence this enterprise without consulting Tretyakov. Tretyakov provided required details of the artist’s life and the dating of his paintings, and mailed to Rovinsky to St. Petersburg Perov’s letters and photographs. All proceeds from the sale of the book went to Perov’s heirs. Their correspondence showed that Rovinsky assisted Tretyakov in purchasing artwork. In his letter of October 30 1881 he wrote: “I hasten to provide you with a listing of the Russian paintings held by Mrs. Tomilova (at the Smolny Institute) ... Some of the pieces are very good indeed”25; in another message he told about a forthcoming sale of Putilov’s collection of Russian portraits; in yet another letter he supplied the address of a merchant in Warsaw who held Orlovsky’s pictures.

The collection of icons amassed by Pavel Tretyakov became the basis of the present-day collection of Old Russian icons at the gallery. Tretyakov’s holdings, although not numerous — 62 icons of the Stroganov, Novgorod and Moscow schools, — were of high quality and diverse. For Tretyakov, icons were not just holy objects but also artefacts from the cradle of Russian visual art. During his lifetime the icons graced his study.

Many of the academic publications mentioned above tell the story of how Tretyakov put together the collection of icons and how thoroughly he studied the history of Old Russian culture and art. It can be argued that Rovinsky’s “History of the Russian Schools of Icon Painting” (St. Petersburg, 1856) played no small role in this. The book was one of the first attempts ever to systematize the old icons. Released in 1856, the treatise immediately became a collector’s item. Rovinsky’s letter to Tretyakov of February 21 1890 reads: “...I’m sending you the book on icons, my personal copy. Take it as a gift; I’ll find somehow a replacement for myself.”26

Tretyakov was actively engaged in the preparation of monographs devoted to the life and oeuvre of contemporary artists. After Kramskoi’s death Vladimir Stasov decided to put together a book about him and asked Tretyakov to send him Kramskoi’s letters for publication. Tretyakov mailed to him 177 letters but expressed his doubt as to the timeliness of their public release.

When Tretyakov received the book (“Ivan Kramskoi. His Life, Letters and Art Criticism”, St. Petersburg, 1888) from St. Petersburg, he responded to Stasov with an elaborate critique, but this letter, unfortunately, did not survive. The academic library holds the copy of the publication with the collector’s hand-written notes. One can only guess about the content of Tretyakov’s response from Stasov’s reply letter and Tretyakov’s pencil notes on the pages of the book. In a subsequent letter, Tretyakov wrote on July 6 1888: “The book you published is very important for me, that’s the reason I’ve been talking at such length about it.”; [the book] “is bound to remain for a long time a reference book of choice for the lovers of Russian art”27. Yet, barely a year had passed when Tretyakov sourly remarked, in a letter of November 13 1889: “When someone dies, nearly always his detractors become fewer in number — those who did not fancy the live person often think better of the dead one. Quite the opposite happened to Kramskoi: he has now so many foes, and bitter ones, and all this due to the letters alone.”28

Tretyakov’s numerous pencil notes in the margins show that he read the whole book very carefully. On the reverse of the title page he wrote:
“Missing: letters to

Then follows a listing of pages where Tretyakov detected errors in dates and names, textual inaccuracies, and the like. The relevant pages carry notes pencilled by Tretyakov. He marked the most important passages with an “x” and “NB”, and underlined them.

So, on page 195 he marked a passage in Kramskoi’s letter to Repin of January 6 1874 describing his idea for the painting “Laughter. Hail King of the Jews”, the making of which proved an onerous task for the artist, and which Tretyakov planned to buy. On page 203, in Kramskoi’s letter to Repin of February 23 1874, Tretyakov underlined the following phrase of Kramskoi: “You may have noticed my ineptitude for sketching? And the reason? I don’t know about you but I can’t sketch because it ties me down. I work on a painting as on a portrait — in my head I have a clear vision of the scene with all the accessories and lighting, and my work is to copy it.” In the margin against these lines, Tretyakov wrote in pencil: “That was the mistake, you can’t pull off a complex composition without sometimes several sketches”. This remark, unfortunately, was partially cut off when the book was re-bound later on.

On page 419 Tretyakov put down an “NB” in the margin and underscored the following phrase by Kramskoi: “You’ll say: and the painting? Well, you know what I personally think? I’ll give instructions to destroy it if it’s not finished in my lifetime, and I know that my wife will obey.” After the artist’s death his widow passed down the unfinished piece to the Russian Museum.

The article “Future of Russian Art” features the following statement by Kramskoi underlined and annotated in pencil by Tretyakov: “Even then I already believed [Kramskoi is talking about his study at the Academy of Fine Arts — Z.Sh.] that you can make a sketch only when you have in your head an idea which excites you and doesn’t let go, an idea bound to become a picture in the future, and that you cannot create on an assignment, no matter when and no matter what” (p. 607). Tretyakov’s note in the margin: “That’s true, but one has to put in much time and labour practicing sketching, and ideas sometimes may fail to come up, so one can do creative work on an assigned theme at least for oneself ... either with someone else’s idea or with one’s own”. Tretyakov’s pencilled remark survived only partially.

This book, among other pieces, contains Kramskoi’s article about Alexander Ivanov. On page 653 Tretyakov underscored the following phrase: “Did Ivanov have this talent, I mean this sort of talent, a consummate craft that gives to a piece a riveting appearance? My argument is that he did,” writes Kramskoi. “For me it’s clear, although I doubt I can convince others in this. But I hope that at the forthcoming Russian national show in Moscow (1882) Ivanov’s oeuvre itself will prove this, and prove more effectively and persuasively than I can.” In the margin of the book Tretyakov commented on this: “Yes he did. For me it’s perfectly clear, although not everyone has been persuaded; and the 1882 exhibition didn’t persuade either. If I could add to the pieces I have two or three pieces I know, this set would make for a more convincing proof.” Tretyakov acquired Ivanov’s sketches and drafts; “The Appearance of Christ Before the People” went to the Rumyantsev Museum.

When, after Ivanov’s return from Italy, “The Appearance of Christ Before the People” was displayed at the Academy of Fine Arts, the artist Apollon Mokritsky published a review titled “‘The Appearance of Christ Before the People’. The Painting of [Alexander] Ivanov” (Moscow, 1858). Mokritsky presented this brochure to Tretyakov, which is evidenced by the handwritten inscription: “To Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov from the Author 21st July 1859”. Mokritsky was also involved in Tretyakov’s undertaking to buy one of Vasily Shternberg’s sketches. Tretyakov loaned money to Mokritsky, and the latter, unable to repay the loans with cash, paid with a Shternberg sketch he owned. Learning that Tretyakov was about to travel to Italy, Mokritsky wrote him a letter on May 9 1860 asking “ visit in Rome the cemetery of heterodox Monte Testaccio, to pay respect there to the ashes of Briullov, Shternberg and Petrovsky, and to pick for me at least a stalk of grass and a flower from every grave blanketing the precious remains of my teacher and my friends.”29 Shternberg passed away at the age of 27. Tretyakov treated with respect this seemingly trifling but in fact touching request of the artist: “I thank you for the flower from Shternberg’s grave”30, wrote Mokritsky to Tretyakov in a letter of October 6 of the same year.

Vladimir Stasov and Mikhail Botkin initiated the publication of the book “[Alexander] Ivanov. His Life and Letters. 1806-1858” (St. Petersburg, 1880). Tretyakov also contributed to this publication: the listing of the painter’s works in the book was compiled by Tretyakov and Botkin. Receiving the book, Tretyakov wrote to Stasov: “I entirely agree with your opinion and share your admiration, but along with delight, many letters cause profound sadness as well. For our artists this publication should be a bedside book, a gospel of sorts, and for the public (in general, including the Academy as well) it is most instructive.”31

Pavel Tretyakov also held other publications about Ivanov’s art, and he helped the historian of Russian art Alexei Novitsky in his work. In 1893 Novitsky wrote an article about Nikolai Gogol and Alexander Ivanov and the library holdings include an offprint of this article with the author’s autograph32. In 1895 Novitsky published a comprehensive biography of Ivanov. He wrote in the foreword: “Submitting the result of our years-long labour for your consideration, we must express our most genuine gratitude to Mikhail Botkin, Ivan Tsvetaev [...], Pavel Tretyakov for their support”33. Tretyakov held this book in his library and often consulted it.

Novitsky contributed to the compilation of the catalogue of Pavel Tretyakov’s collection, though eventually only wrote a small essay about the gallery.

Tretyakov helped the bibliographer and historian of art Nikolai Sobko in his work compiling a dictionary of Russian artists34. Pavel Tretyakov provided requested details about many of them and expressed hopes that after the project was completed they would together set about compiling a detailed catalogue of Tretyakov’s gallery. Tretyakov’s library contained two volumes of the dictionary, but the third volume was released after Tretyakov’s death.

Pavel and Sergei Tretyakov initiated and funded the publication of a book “Maloyaroslavets. Resources and References For the History of the City in the 17th and 18th centuries” (Moscow, 1884)35 which tells that the first references to the Tretyakov family can be found in this town’s historical records of the 17th century. The book is missing from the library.

Tretyakov commanded great respect, and his support was sought often. When professor Ivan Tsvetaev was raising funds for the establishment of the University Museum of Fine Arts (now the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), he asked many people for donations, including Tretyakov. “Your friendly assistance, Pavel Mikhailovich, is needed: secure a sympathetic hearing from some of your friends. Your plea is more likely to be heeded than mine.”36 Tsvetaev’s request was fulfilled by Tretyakov. He donated a small sum of 3,500 francs but his example and recommendations engaged the attention of wealthy donors.

In April 1898 Tsvetaev wrote to Tretyakov: “Appending herewith a copy of the Regulations on the Committee for Establishment of the Museum of Fine Arts, approved by His Majesty ... I have the honour of asking you to honour the Committee by becoming one of its Founding Members...”37 Tretyakov turned down the request “on account of poor health”. The said regulations, with Ivan Tsvetaev’s signature, are held at the Tretyakov’s library. A “Note on the Museum of Fine Arts”, signed by Tsvetaev, has likewise survived.

Tretyakov also contributed to the establishment of the Rumyantsev Museum, whose fine art holdings comprised Fyodor Pryanishnikov’s collection, bought and donated by Alexander II, as well as 200 pictures transferred from the Hermitage, and private donations. Tretyakov gifted to the museum Valery Borovikovsky’s “Portrait of Amvrosy Podobedov”. Novitsky wrote an essay about this museum and donated a copy of it, with a presentation inscription, to Tretyakov.

Tretyakov actively helped along provincial museums as well. The Radishchev Museum in Saratov was established in 1885, its funds mostly donations from the professor of painting Alexei Bogolyubov and other private persons, and items contributed from the Hermitage. Tretyakov donated to the museum such pictures as Alexander Viyushin’s “Choir in a Village Church”, Alexander Yanov’s “A Boyar’s Key-Keeper”, Afanasy Razmaritsyn’s “Street Acrobats”, according to information found in the brochure about the Saratov museum.

Andrei Lenivov’s collection of medals is the focus of a publication handed to Tretyakov by the collector himself, which is evidenced by the presentation inscription: “To Mr. Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov as a keepsake: With deepest respect!! From A. Lenivov.”38

According to the 1905 catalogue, the collection of periodicals received by the gallery included, in addition to the already mentioned “Russky Khudozhestvenny Arkhiv”, such journals as “Zhurnal Izyashchnykh Iskusstv” (“Journal of Fine Arts”), “Zhivopisnaya Russkaya Biblioteka” (“Russian Library of Paintings”), “Svetopis” (“Painting by Light”), “Khudozhestvenny Khroniker” (“Chronicler of Arts”), “Khudozhestvennye Novosti” (“Art News”).

As a matter of fact, the Tretyakovs read many more periodicals than those listed above. We learn from the memoirs and letters that the Tretyakovs eagerly awaited new issues of magazines such as “Sovremennik”, “Otechestvennye Zapiski”, “Russky Vestnik” and “Vestnik Evropy”. The listing made in pencil by Pavel Tretyakov himself also features issues of “Vestnik Istoricheskikh Nauk” and “Panteon”. Tretyakov was interested in the new magazine “Mir Iskusstva” (“World of Art”), edited by Sergei Diaghilev, and regarded critically the new magazine “Iskusstvo i Khudozhestvennaya Promyshlennost” (“Art and Art Industry”), launched on Vladimir Stasov’s initiative and edited by Nikolai Sobko.

Pavel Tretyakov left to posterity a priceless collection of Russian visual art, his personal library making a fitting complement. A review of the library’s holdings affords us yet another chance to see how actively and fruitfully Pavel Tretyakov worked to help along the development of Russian culture in the second half of the 19th century and how great was his contribution to the formation, collecting and study of objects of Russian visual art. To this day books from his library remain indispensable reference points for students of Russian culture and art.


  1. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 8. XI. Item 7.
  2. Many thanks to the library's employee S. Kulikova for her help in research for this article and for her compilation of a bibliography of Pavel Tretyakov's fund.
  3. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 1, item 4725.
  4. Catalogue of Pavel Tretyakov's library. Moscow, 1905.
  5. In 1865 Pryanishnikov's collection of Russian paintings was bought by the government and used as the foundation of the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow.
  6. Ziloti, Vera. In the Home of Pavel Tretyakov. Moscow. 1998. P. 26.
  7. Mudrogel, Nikolai. 58 years with the Tretyakov Gallery. A Memoir. Leningrad. 1962. P. 48 (Hereinafter - Mudrogel).
  8. Mudrogel. P. 17.
  9. Ziloti, Vera. In the home of Pavel Tretyakov. Moscow. 1998. P. 19.
  10. Ibid. P. 47.
  11. Ibid. P. 73.
  12. Ibid. P. 119.
  13. Ibid. P. 120.
  14. Botkina, Alexandra. Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov in Life and Art. Moscow: 1993. P. 230.
  15. Ibid. P. 259.
  16. Ibid. P. 228.
  17. Ibid. P. 117.
  18. Ibid. P. 248.
  19. The Tretyakov Gallery. Catalogue of the Collection. Illuminated Manuscripts of the 11th-19th Centuries. Book 1. Illuminated Manuscripts of the 11th-17th Centuries. Moscow. 2010.
  20. Botkina, op.cit., p. 251.
  21. For more information, see: Shergina, Zoya. “Vasily Vereshchagin's Autographs in the Academic Library of the Tretyakov Gallery". In: Artwork of Vasily Vereshchagin at the Tretyakov Gallery. Catalogue of the Exhibition. Moscow. 1992 Pp.112-113.
  22. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 1, item 3136.
  23. Dictionary of Russian Engraved Portraits. St. Petersburg. 1872. Comprehensive Dictionary of Russian Engraved Portraits. Volumes 1-4. St. Petersburg. 1887-1889.
  24. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 1, item 3135.
  25. Ibid. Item 3124.
  26. Ibid. Item 3129.
  27. Correspondence between Pavel Tretyakov and Vladimir Stasov. 1874-1897. Moscow-Leningrad. 1949. P. 122.
  28. Ibid. P. 127. Stasov-Tretyakov.
  29. Letters of Artists to Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov. 1856-1869. Moscow. 1960. P. 73.
  30. Ibid. P. 78.
  31. Correspondence between Pavel Tretyakov and Vladimir Stasov. 1874-1897. Moscow-Leningrad. 1949. P. 54.
  32. Novitsky, Alexei. ‘References and Sources for Characterisation of Russian Writers, Artists and Public Figures. Gogol and Ivanov.' An offprint from the magazine “Russkoe obozrenie” (Russian Review), 1893, vol. 2. March. Inscription: “To the dearest Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov from the grateful author”.
  33. Novitsky, Alexei. An Attempt at a Full Biography of Alexander Ivanov. Moscow. 1895. P. IV.
  34. Sobko,Nikolai. Dictionary of Russian Artists... Volumes 1 and 2. St. Petersburg. 1893-1895.
  35. Pavel and Sergei Tretyakov. Life. Collection. Museum. Moscow, 2006. P. 8
  36. Department of Manuscripts, Tretyakov Gallery. Fund 1. Item 4035.
  37. Ibid. Item 4036.
  38. Karzinkin, Alexander. On the Medals of Tsar Dimitry Ioannovich (False Dmitriy I). Moscow. Otto Herbeck's Printing House and Letter Foundry. 1889.





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