“...Looking After Art Training and Education in Russia.”
Episodes from the history of the Academy of Arts over 260 years
Peter the Great’s edict ordering to establish an “Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences" was issued on December 22 1724; it stated that “said Academy should see to it that fine arts and sciences become better." However, the Academy was mostly focused on academic endeavours, so much so that during the reign of Empress Elizabeth, on November 6 1757, the Senate issued a directive to create an autonomous entity, an Academy of Arts, initially established under the auspices of Moscow University: “To establish an Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, and as for its organizational structure, the Lieutenant General and Moscow University curator Shuvalov is expected to submit to the Senate a detailed proposal and staffing chart, and<...> in response to the above-mentioned requests..> for the upkeep of teachers and students at said institution, and for meeting other needs thereof<...> appropriate from the Treasury 6,000 rubles<...> now<...> and hereafter<...>"
Peter the Great’s edict ordering to establish an Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences. Original copy. 1724
Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents
A favourite of Empress Elizabeth, Ivan Shuvalov (1727-1797) was a high-ranking statesman, as well as a patron and aficionado of the arts. He distinguished himself mostly in the field of education, his most noteworthy undertakings being the establishment of Moscow University and the Academy of Arts. The documents that Shuvalov drew up, “Regulations of the Academy of Arts" and the “Sixteen Founding Principles of the Imperial Academy of Arts", set out the basic principles of its existence.
Catherine the Great, who claimed she was successor not only to her “Aunt Elizaveta" but, most of all, to Peter the Great, made her own stately contribution to the development of the Academy of Arts. On November 4 1764, the Empress “granted the Academy its Charter and Privilege", which contained instructions as to the organization of the educational process, artists' education, including the ethics of conduct and rules of cohabitation for the young talents.
Title page and vignettes of the Charter of the Imperial Academy of Arts.
The Academy Research Museum
The Empress timed “the Academy's inauguration" to coincide with an anniversary of her accession to the throne. Contemporaries have left behind rapturous accounts of the opulent celebration on June 28 1765, which included richly decorated “theatricals on barges strung along the Neva and at the pier, a speech of Secretary Saltykov, the reading out of ‘the granted privilege', the delivery of diplomas to the professors, a welcoming address from the archimandrite Platon, a service of supplication, and the laying of the foundation stone for the Academy's grandiose edifice, which still bedazzles the viewer with its size and splendour. Over eight days the Academy, richly decorated with artwork, was open to the public." Another observer noted: “The influx of aristocrats, medium-ranking individuals and commoners eager to tour the Academy never ebbed away, so every day from dawn till dusk its rooms and halls were swarming with people." All this and, most importantly, the relevant legislation were so important for elevating the Academy's status that, until 1917, 1764 was considered as the Academy's official year of foundation.
VALERY JACOBI. Inauguration of the Imperial Academy of Arts on July 7 1765. 1889
Oil on canvas. The Academy Research Museum
Soviet historians, eager to remove the achievements of the monarchy from Russian history, dismissed this date. In the Soviet period, therefore, 1757 was officially considered the year of the establishment of the Academy; moreover, it was assumed that the individual who did the most to initiate the project was the scholar and educator Mikhail Lomonosov, who had indeed worked with Ivan Shuvalov, but on a different undertaking - the creation of Moscow University.
The historical record has now been set straight. On February 6 2009, the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences opened an exhibition titled “Societe of Fine Arts and Sciences", dedicated to the 285th anniversary of the establishment of the Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences. In his welcoming speech, the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences stressed that in the Academy's name, as given by Peter I, “fine arts" were placed in front of “sciences".
The Academy of Arts' first charter of 1764 described the mission of the Academy and the boarding school that would be run by it, as “raising a new breed of people free from society's defects". And although the Empress's dictum, which the Academy's second president Ivan Betskoi (1704-1795) had been working hard to enforce, was not in fact put into practice, the Academy grew and strengthened itself, educating Russian artists, who went on to teach at the school (its first instructors had been invited from abroad), and modify its structure, staff and charter.
The Imperial Academy of Arts, initially named solemnly and poetically by Shuvalov as the “Academy of Three Noblest Arts", was a state-run institution financed from the Treasury. Later the Academy's status as a state entity was formalized when the Ministry of the Imperial Court, established by Nicholas I in 1826 at the time of his coronation, took charge of it. Every year the Ministry would approve an annual budget submitted by the Academy's Council and finance the establishment.
But whenever an emergency occurred, the Treasury was willing to make an extra appropriation for additional expenses: there are many records about such cases in the Academy's archive.
The history of the Imperial Academy of Arts from 1850 through to the early 20th century was in many respects linked to the artistic and organizational initiatives of its president, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia (1847-1909), the brother of Emperor Alexander III. Just two years younger than the heir, he was closely attached to him, in no small measure because the two brothers had studied together. The education they received, a mixture of academic learning and military drill, was typical for the offspring of the Imperial family. They shared many views on Russian statehood and culture, as well as an eagerness to contribute to the flourishing of Russian art.
Having completed his course of study and attained the age of majority in 1865, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich was elected an “honorary aficionado", and in 1868, aged 22, became the “fellow" (deputy) of the Academy's president Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna; towards the end of her life, the latter spent most of her time in Italy, effectively delegating to Vladimir Alexandrovich the obligations of the presidential office. One of his first steps was establishing annual prizes for the best works of art displayed at the Academy's shows: a sum of 1,500 rubles was allocated for that purpose.
After Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna's death in 1876, in compliance with an edict issued by Alexander II, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich became the Academy's president: he would hold this office until his death in 1909. Effectively he was in charge of the Academy for 41 years, including 34 years as its officially appointed president, the longest tenure in the history of the Academy.
In 1883 the Academy launched a large-scale initiative to set up museums in the provinces and endow them with artwork. Thus, in 1884-1885 alone, more than 1,500 paintings, works of sculpture and drawings from the Academy's archive were sent to Riga, Saratov, Vilnius, Odessa, Kharkov and other cities. (From then onwards, the Academy, when acquiring artwork at art shows, would be partly guided by such considerations.)
All these undertakings, enhancing the Academy's authority, pursued far-reaching goals, such as stimulating interest in art in the provinces. With these goals in view, the Academy attached paramount importance to organizing art schools and spreading a knowledge of art throughout the country.
According to the accounts of contemporaries, the Grand Duke's presidential tenure at the Academy “will be forever associated with three landmark initiatives in the history of Russian art: 1) the introduction of a new academic charter in 1893 and the ensuing radical reform of the Academy; 2) support for provincial art schools; 3) the foundation of the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III in St. Petersburg".
The last charter of the Imperial Academy of Arts, approved in 1893, contained the following provisions: “1. The Imperial Academy of Arts is an institution of higher learning committed to supporting, developing and disseminating art across Russia. 2. The Academy of Arts uses all means possible to contribute to the flourishing and development of the arts; it is also obliged to look after artistic training and education in Russia." The charter thus re-affirmed that the Academy's activities were the responsibility of the state.
Following an order given by the Grand Duke, who was the president of a Society of Fine Arts in Odessa, an art school that had been set up in Odessa in 1865 was expanded and reorganized; from 1884, the Grand Duke would regularly send his instructions to the school. After Vladimir Alexandrovich's death the Odessa Art School, in grateful memory of him, assumed his name, accommodating a request from the public.
Contemporaries noted that it was only due to Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich's personal initiative that “the Academy commenced its greatest undertaking - the establishment of art schools in Odessa, Kazan, Tiflis and other towns, which placed the Academy at the forefront of the great cultural initiative of state importance: spreading art education in our country."
Alexander Ill's cultural policy consisted in zealous patronage of Russian art, and it would be difficult to overestimate his role in the creation and support of musical ensembles and music societies. In the area of the visual arts, the Emperor's mission was carried out by his brother, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, who wanted to see all the best artists working under the Academy's auspices. Thanks to the steps he took, those students who had left the Academy before graduation to establish the “Peredvizhniki" (Wanderers) society were welcomed back into the Academy's fold less than a decade after they had broken with it. The Academy allowed the Wanderers to use its premises for exhibitions - preferably together with the academic artists. Many Wanderers took up teaching posts at the Academy, rewarded with a generous professorial salary, but they requested exemption from the obligation to wear uniform. Many of them accepted commissions from the Imperial family, and even genre painters, authors of scenes from everyday life like Alexei Korzukhin and Vladimir Makovsky, accomplished several portraits of the Grand Dukes. The founder of the Wanderers, Ivan Kramskoi, created gala portraits of the Emperor and his consort. The methodology of academic education shaped artists capable of brilliantly handling the most diverse artistic challenges.
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich wrote in his “Memoirs" that “in order to hold high the banner of Russian art, the Imperial family had to expend two million rubles annually." He mentions the perennial loss-makers, the five main Imperial theatres and the Diaghilev ballet, and then wrote: “The Imperial Academy of Arts required equally substantial financial support. Although officially an item on the Treasury's accounts, the Academy could never make ends meet and members of the Imperial family regarded it as their duty to financially support the school's needy students."
The highest prize any Academy student could hope for was the gold medal for “the programme", for what now would be called a graduation work. This type of assignment was known as that because the Academy's Council expected graduating students to produce a painting focused on a particular story - “the programme", which most often included narratives from Russian history or religious or mythological themes - and the goal of this assignment was to test the professional skills that the artist had acquired during his years of study. Students who wanted to take part in the competition submitted their sketches to the Academy's Council for review. To those whose works were approved, the Academy granted, for a year, an enhanced stipend and a separate studio in the Academy's building: such students were called “programmers", or “competitioners". The gold medal entitled its holders to fellowships for study outside Russia - they could spend up to six years abroad, improving their skills at the Academy's expense. The levels of financial support were generous.
At the Imperial Academy of Arts the best students were rewarded with gold and silver medals (first-rank and second-rank), medals of encouragement (first-rank and second-rank), and monetary awards. This happened regularly at exams at the end of each term (the academic year was divided into trimesters of four months each), with a list of such awards regularly printed in the Academy's reports and journals. These listings also included “students in need" receiving financial assistance, which the Council would grant after a review of the student's applications. There was no pre-set allocation: awards were granted to any student in need, the amount varying between 10 and 50 rubles. Every November, the Council awarded stipends; each lasted for a year, at the end of which period the Council reviewed the stipend-holder's achievements and either renewed the stipend or awarded it to a more deserving student.
In the last three decades of the 19th century, Russia saw the establishment of many art schools in the provinces, a process that intensified in the 1880s and 1890s. On the one hand, many of the schools were established on the initiative of Academy graduates who were returning to their home towns, with the support of local authorities and wealthy art-lovers. On the other hand, the schools' principal patron was the Academy, which nurtured such entities in all kinds of ways, overseeing their teaching and educational activities, and in some cases, financial operations. It was taken for granted that the provincial schools should turn to the Academy for help in case of need, since no other institution providing training in art had sufficient resources to handle so formidable a challenge.
The Academy was always willing to provide such unconditional financial assistance to various art colleges and schools, as well as simply to educational institutions that offered drawing and painting classes. It generously donated gypsum, sculptural originals, and other teaching aids: the first recipient of such gifts was the provincial school opened by the academician Alexander Stupin in Arzamas in 1810.
Such art schools and museums were opened throughout Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in no small part because members, professors and graduates of the Imperial Academy of Arts volunteered their time and effort for the projects. They became the schools' directors, sat on their councils or boards of trustees, assisting in various ways with organizing the educational process.
The Academy used to offer its generous help not only to provincial schools, but also to museums, donating or temporarily loaning artwork from its own collection at no cost. The listings of artworks were subject to approval by the Academy's Council. The Academy first sent artwork to provincial museums in 1884-1885, when 150 pieces were allocated to Riga, Saratov, Vilno, Odessa and Kharkov. Later this initiative was repeated regularly; shipments of artwork, prints and books were sent to Tobolsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Khabarovsk, Tashkent, Perm and Voronezh. The Academy acted as patron in such a way to more than 20 museums, sending more than 800 works of art.
This type of help is one of the Academy's traditions, which was kept alive through different periods of the country's history, and continues to this day to be an essential element of Russia's cultural life.
The history of the art institutions in Penza - a Picture Gallery, one of the oldest in Russia, and an art school - is a typical such example. The school and the gallery in Penza came into being thanks to the will of Lieutenant General Nikolai Seliverstov (1830-1891), who bequeathed his library and collection of paintings to the town, as well as more than 500,000 rubles, for the founding of a school of drawing “along the lines of the Stieglitz school". His will stipulated that part of this sum, 50,000 rubles, was to be set aside as an endowment for the maintenance of the art museum. The executor of Seliverstov's will, the famous traveller, connoisseur of arts and Distinguished Member of the Academy of Arts Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky paid a visit to Penza.
The foundation stone was laid for the building, and in 1898 the ceremony of the opening of the college and the museum took place, with the well-known artist and Academy member Konstantin Savitsky (1844-1905) appointed as director of both (the Picture Gallery is named after him today). In his first report to the Academy, accounting for the year 1898, Savitsky provided a detailed description of the educational process and the museum itself, whose holdings already numbered 224 paintings and drawings. Savitsky was eager to add works by contemporary artists to the museum's collection. The archives of Academicians Viktor Vasnetsov, Alexander Kiselyov, Sergei Ivanov and Ivan Shishkin contain his letters, in which he asked his friends to donate their works to the new museum. “Heed my request, make the college richer. Why don't you give the museum a little drawing representative of yourself. ‘Seek and ye will find...”’.
Many artists responded to Savitsky's requests, donating their works to the museum. At Savitsky's request the Academy, too, gifted to the new museum paintings, graphic pieces and sculptures by Russian artists, and created a commission to review the collection, appointing Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky as its head and sending him to Penza on such an assignment. Savitsky's successor, the academician Nikolai Petrov, did all he could to expand the museum's collection, which grew thanks to donations made by the town's residents. The largest gifts were the collections of Penza's former governor Alexander Tatishchev and the trustee of the art college, the infantry General Alexander Bogolyubov (about 140 pieces, including works by Ivan Martos, Ivan Kramskoi, Ivan Shishkin, Ilya Repin, Ivan Yendogurov and Franz Roubaud, as well as a collection of old weaponry and objects of applied art).
Other provincial art schools and museums, such as those in Kazan, Odessa, Kharkov, Riga, Smolensk and other towns, were established and formed in a similar way.
The Academy's most significant contribution to the organization of museums in Russia was assembling and curating the collections of the Russian Museum of Emperor Alexander III. The initiative to establish the Russian Museum began when, on April 13 1895, the Emperor issued the relevant decree, in which he also donated to the museum the Mikhailovsky Palace, a building later restored and adapted for the museum's needs by the academician Vasily Svinyin.
The backbone of the new collection was formed by items transferred from the royal palaces, the Hermitage, and the Academy of Arts. The Academy's Council elaborated regulations and a staff plan for the museum. The regulations provided that “before acquiring new items the museum must first receive approval from the Academy." From then on - until 1918, the year in which the Academy was closed - at almost every meeting the Council discussed and approved proposed acquisitions for the Russian Museum, with a special committee composed of three academicians introducing the proposals.
The journals of the transactions of the Academy Council contain records not only of irregularly adopted decisions on replacing deceased or retired members with new ones, but also of many other assignments. The Council regularly sent the Academy's professors to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture to participate in graduation exams (it was an obligation of the Academy to do so).
A meeting of the Presidium of the Imperial Academy of Arts
Documents from the Imperial Academy of Arts show that many of its museum-related initiatives were financially backed by Russian millionaires. A good case in point is Bogdan Khanenko, the patron of the arts who was an honorary member of the Academy. In 1913 this “sugar tycoon" wrote to the Academy's president, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna: “Eager to assist you in your energetic efforts, I, on a visit in Venice last winter, resolved to place at your disposal 21,000 rubles - the sum necessary for erecting the Russian Exhibition Pavilion in Venice - and 10,000 rubles, to be used as its endowment capital, the return on which should be used for the expenses as needed for the upkeep of this building." The Russian Exhibition Pavilion in Venice was built to the design of Academician Alexei Shchusev. It opened in 1914, and continues to serve Russian art as the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale today.
In 1910, the Academy's president Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1854-1920) suggested building an exhibition space called the “Palace of Arts" in St. Petersburg. Two years later the Academy received a plot of land between the Mikhailovsky Palace and the Yekaterininsky Canal. The design for the new wing was produced by the Academy's dean of architecture Leon Benois, but the project required a vast amount of sum - more than one million rubles. In February 1913 St. Petersburg and Moscow bankers collected one million rubles to commemorate the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty: the donors asked Nicholas II “to decide on the purpose and the designation" of this sum. And although the Emperor had received different suggestions as to how to use the funds, he favoured Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna's proposal. Already in summer 1913 the Emperor and the Grand Duchess laid the first bricks of the future edifice's foundation: the building, to this day called “the Benois wing", was later transferred to the Russian Museum.
Oil on canvas. 93 × 73 cm. Russian Museum
In a similar way, the great Russian painter and Academy member Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) did a great deal for his hometown, Feodosia. The text of his will is a moving one: “It is my sincere wish that the town of Feodosia should have complete ownership of the building of my Picture Gallery in the town of Feodosia, with all its paintings, sculptures and other works of art held thereat, and in memory of myself, Aivazovsky, I bequeath all of the above to my hometown, Feodosia, to my native town..."
Many academicians with estates in the provinces were similarly involved in philanthropy. Thus, the academician Vasily Polenov (1844-1927) organized a small museum on his estate, believing it was necessary to raise the village residents' cultural awareness and sensitivity.
On March 4 1915, the Academy received a copy of the will of Ilya Repin's wife Natalya Nordman, who had died in 1914: “I hereby bequeath life tenancy of my plot of land in Finland, in the village of Kuokkala, known as Penaty, with its house and outbuildings, to the professor of the Imperial Academy of Arts and painter Ilya Yefimovich Repin, and the title to the estate I bequeath to the said Academy, which, after Ilya Yefimovich's death, shall arrange in the house a museum to be known as ‘Ilya Yefimovich Repin's Little House'. I also bequeath to the Imperial Academy of Arts capital to be expended on the maintenance of Ilya Yefimovich Repin's Little House."
"Penaty" Estate-Museum of Ilya Repin
Photograph by Sergi Shagulashvili. Archive of Zurab Tsereteli
After the Bolshevik Revolution the Council of People's Commissars abolished the Imperial Academy of Arts in its decree issued on April 12 1918. The operations of the institution, including its initiatives to set up new art schools and museums, were suspended.
The Academy's community was disbanded, but, tellingly, only a handful of the academicians, preferring exile in France, Italy or Latvia, left Russia. There were many famous individuals who cast in their lot with their homeland and continued to work fruitfully for the benefit of Russian art. In recognition of their achievements, some of them were conferred titles such as People's Artist, Merited Artist and Eminent Art Professional, or feted with awards such as the Stalin Prize. All such distinctions notwithstanding, they continued to take pride in the title of Academician given by the Imperial Academy of Arts, valuing it more than many other well-deserved honours.
Although the Imperial Academy had been abolished, those whose final years overlapped with the Soviet era continued to adhere to the moral principles by which its community had previously lived.
Thus, the academician of painting Ivan Kulikov (1875-1941), who from 1930 onwards taught at an art studio in the town of Murom, founded museums of regional history in Murom and in the village of Pavlov.
The academician Isaak Brodsky (1883-1939), the eminent artist who had been Repin's favourite student, stated in his 1939 will that he wanted to have a museum established in the apartment-studio in which he lived and worked from 1924 until his death in 1939. Brodsky himself was a passionate collector, and his collection, kept in his home, included pieces by Ivan Aivazovsky, Vladimir Makovsky, Ivan Kramskoi, Ilya Repin, Vasily Surikov, Vasily Polenov, Isaac Levitan, Valentin Serov, Konstantin Korovin, Mikhail Vrubel, Fyodor Malyavin, Alexandre Benois, Mikhail Dobuzhinsky, Konstantin Somov, Boris Kustodiev, Serge Sudeikin, Nikolai Sapunov, Boris Grigoriev, Nicolai Fechin, Alexandre Jacovleff, Marc Chagall and other Russian artists. Continuing the tradition of the Academy, Brodsky donated about 300 paintings and graphic works to the town of Berdyansk, near where he had been born, where a museum was established on his initiative in 1930; in 1936, he gave 300 compositions by Russian artists to the Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum. Brodsky also sent gifts to other Russian museums, and in 1939, after his death, his relations passed a large collection of paintings and drawings to the Russian National Academy of Arts.
Apartment-Museum of Isaac Brodsky, St. Petersburg. Interior view.
Photograph by Sergi Shagulashvili. Archive of Zurab Tsereteli
The Council of People's Commissars decree abolishing the Academy of Arts contained not only a provision to disband the Academy's membership, but also one that renamed the College of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture as the Petrograd State Free Art Workshops. In the course of the 1920s-1930s this name changed several times, and in 1934 the school's name reverted to its original, the Russian Academy of Arts, with the artist Isaak Brodsky, member of the former Imperial Academy of Arts, appointed as its dean.
MARC CHAGALL. Interior with Flowers. 1917
Tempera on paper mounted on cardboard. 46.5 × 61 cm. Apartment-Museum of Isaac Brodsky, St. Petersburg
During that period many former members of the Academy taught there, as well as at many other art schools. Their contribution to Russian culture reaffirmed the continuity of moral and artistic traditions engendered by the Imperial Academy of Arts.
The Academy's structure was fully restored when Joseph Stalin signed a Resolution of the Soviet Cabinet of Ministers on August 5 1947. In conformity with the charter approved at the same time, the Academy numbered 45 full members and 25 associate members, and it was put in charge of such institutions as the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, the Repin Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in St. Petersburg, the Tomsky Academic Art Lyceum in Moscow, the Ioganson Academic Art Lyceum in St. Petersburg, and the Research Institute of Theory and History of Visual Arts (these entities are recorded here with the names they bear today), as well as libraries, museums and artistic workshops.
The Soviet Academy of Arts numbered among its presidents Alexander Gerasimov, Boris Ioganson, Valentin Serov, Nikolai Tomsky, Boris Ugarov and Nikolai Ponomarev.
In 1948 the Vladimir-Mariinsky Retreat, formerly part of the Imperial Academy's estate, returned to being a guest house for artists, called the Repin Academic House of Creativity (also known as the “Akademichka", or Academy Dacha). Members of the Soviet Academy, continuing tradition, went there as supervisors of groups of artists, working side by side with their young colleagues. For many artists the Academy Dacha was the place where they learned about their profession, where they were shaped as artists and determined their subsequent creative paths.
The Soviet Academy of Arts continued to organize new museums. These new memorial establishments included the Museum of Ilya Repin's Estate “Penaty", the Isaak Brodsky Apartment-Museum, the Pavel Chistyakov House-Museum, and the Sergei Konenkov Studio-Museum: all were incorporated as parts of the Academy's Research Museum.
The superb teacher Pavel Chistyakov (1832-1919) nurtured many talented Russian artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; at different periods, he taught Ilya Repin, Vasily Polenov, Vasily Surikov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Vasily Savinsky, Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel, Igor Grabar, Dmitry Kardovsky, Andrei Ryabushkin, Viktor Borisov-Musatov and others.
The Memorial Studio-Museum of Sergei Konenkov (1874-1971) was opened in Moscow in 1974, the centenary of the sculptor's birth. In reality, Konenkov's studio had already become something of a museum, with all its objects left where they had been during the sculptor's lifetime: principally that applied to his so-called “Eternal Furniture", one of the sculptor's best creations, most of which he produced in the 1930s when living in America. The museum features many of Konenkov's pieces, which are now considered landmark works in the history of Russian culture.
SERGEI KONENKOV. Paganini. 1956
The Sergei Konenkov Memorial Studio-Museum, Moscow. Exhibition.
Photograph by Sergi Shagulashvili. Archive of Zurab Tsereteli
The Soviet Academy of Arts also put considerable effort into the organization of the Ilya Repin museum in the artist's hometown of Chuguev, as well as into setting up the memorial museum in Pavel Korin's studio, at the request of his widow Praskovia Korina. Korin (1892-1967) had assembled a unique collection of icons, which, together with his own work, his archive and other memorial items, was incorporated into the collection of the museum, which was later transferred by the Academy to the Tretyakov Gallery.
The memorial museum in the apartment of the great landscape painter and academician Arkhip Kuindzhi (1841 (1842?)-1910) was opened in 1993 thanks to the Academy's efforts, although a proposal to establish his museum appeared back in 1910 after the artist's death, the initiator of that idea originally his student, Academician Nicholas Roerich.
The Academy's library was instrumental in spreading art study and research; over many years it gave, free of charge, publications focused on art and art scholarship to more than 20 art schools and cultural institutions.
One of the more remarkable events came when, during the Soviet period, the Academy received a donation from the collector, connoisseur and patron of arts Semyon Abamelek-Lazarev (1857-1916), who died in Italy, and bequeathed his villa in Rome to the Academy. His will specified:
“I give to my wife, Princess Maria Pavlovna Demidova, the right to the lifetime tenancy of my Roman villa, known as the ‘Villa Abamelek'; upon her death the villa, with its movable property and land, shall become the property of the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts, which shall make it available as a residence for the Academy's stipend-holders who come to study painting, sculpture and architecture in Rome at the Academy's expense."
After the Academy had inherited the villa, it was visited during the Soviet period by more than 600 artists - Academicians and recipients of the Academy's gold medals. (In 1947 a decree was issued to the effect that the Academy should give awards for the best works of visual arts - gold and silver medals - as well as diplomas.)
Some superb artwork was produced during such trips. For the first time the artists had the chance to see masterpieces of art in real life - many of the artists brought back from Italy whole series of works, not just individual pieces. The portraits and Italian landscapes created by artists such as Yakov Romas, Orest Vereisky, Tair Salakhov, Alexei Gritsai, Indulis Zarins, Dmitry Nalbandyan, Mikhail Kupriyanov, Porfiry Krylov, Nikolai Sokolov, Andrei Mylnikov, Dmitry Mochalsky, Nikolai Ponomarev, Fyodor Reshetnikov, Nikolai Romadin, Boris Ugarov, Dementy Shmarinov and others, became centrepieces of many art shows and have gone down in the history of Russian art as landmark works.
The Soviet Academy of Arts became the Russian Academy of Arts after Russia's president Boris Yeltsin signed the relevant decree on May 25 1992, followed by the head of the Russian cabinet of ministers Viktor Chernomyrdin approving the Academy's new charter. Nikolai Ponomarev became its president, replaced in due course by Zurab Tsereteli.
Now, with its old name, the Russian Academy of Arts, restored, the graphic artist Mikhail Avvakumov and the sculptor Ivan Kopytkin designed new medals, which emulated those that the academician Pavel Utkin had created for the Imperial Academy, as well as the diplomas and letters of appreciation that complemented them. There are now more awards than previously because today's recipients include practitioners of other art forms, including architects, designers, critics and art historians.
The Academy's current president Zurab Tsereteli has put considerable effort into setting up new museums. He has organized three museums in three sumptuous edifices in Moscow: in the famous Gubin House on Petrovka Street, an 18th century estate built by the architect Matvei Kazakov; in the Dolgorukov House on Prechistenka Street, another architectural landmark; and in an early 20th century five-storey house on Yermolaevsky Lane. The three-storey building in Empire style on Petrovka became home to Russia's first museum of modern art, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, with an affiliate branch in another building; the Zurab Tsereteli Art Gallery, under the aegis of the Russian Academy of Arts, is located in a third building. In December 1999 the Museum of Modern Art's director Zurab Tsereteli received License No. 3 from Russia's Ministry of Culture: License No. 1 had been granted to the Hermitage Museum, License No. 2 to the Tretyakov Gallery. The creation of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art made an invaluable contribution to Russian culture. Although nearly every major city in the world has a similar museum, for decades in Russia attempts to establish one ended in failure, until Tsereteli took the initiative into his hands.
One of the main exhibition spaces of the Russian Academy of Arts is the branch of the Museum of Modern Art at 10 Gogolevsky Boulevard, which opened in 2009. It occupies the building of the Tsurikov-Naryshkin estate, an 18th century architectural landmark designed by Kazakov. In the inner yard of the compound stands a structure known as the “Crystal Chapel", built by Tsereteli. In front of the chapel Tsereteli has mounted a statue of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.
The Academy also supported the initiative to organize a museum dedicated to Pavel Kuznetsov in his hometown of Saratov to mark the 120th anniversary of the artist's birth, in 1998, and an orchard was later laid out next to the memorial house. This event was accompanied by an exhibition “Pavel Kuznetsov's Orchard".
Many academicians became founders of museums. Andrei Mylnikov (1919-2012), the vice-president of the Russian Academy of Arts, was born and lived as a child in the town of Pokrovsk (now the town of Engels). His grandfather Nikolai Ukhin, an honorary citizen of the town, was a grain-trader, trustee and patron of the arts who acquired, with his own funds, buildings for a parochial secondary school for girls and an alms-house, while also making generous donations to the Trinity Church, where he was a church warden. His grandson took up his grandfather's cause: Mylnikov has given to the town many of his own works and those of his students, to open a picture gallery in the merchant Ukhin's former residence, the tenancy of which the municipality of Engels granted to the gallery. The Mylnikov Picture Gallery in Engels is now an affiliate of Saratov's Radishchev Museum, and has become a very interesting cultural centre of the Trans-Volga Region.
Efrem Zverkov (1921-2012), another vice-president of the Russian Academy of Arts, has given many of his compositions to the Tver Regional Picture Gallery. He organized and financed an annual competition of paintings there, including an art show and the accompanying publication of a catalogue, and winners receive a prize in his name. Zverkov also spearheaded the creation of the Golubkina Art School for children in the town of Zaraisk in the Moscow Region; he looked after the school, participated in the annual reviews of its students' works, arranged his personal shows in the school's exhibition space, and organized in Moscow displays of works produced by the school's students.
EFREM ZVERKOV. Cold Wind. 1967
Ilya Glazunov (1930-2017) also founded an institution of higher learning for artists, the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, as well as the Picture Gallery that bears his name (the Moscow Picture Gallery Dedicated to People's Artist Ilya Glazunov), located in the centre of Moscow, on Volkhonka Street. Glazunov's 306 paintings on display there were donated by him to the city of Moscow, and he also gave to the Gallery items from his private collection - icons and sculptures, furniture and metalwork - as well as the antique furniture that serves as its decoration.
Viktor Ivanov (born 1924) has gifted many of his paintings and graphic pieces to the Pozhalostin Regional Art Museum in Ryazan, where they are displayed at its affiliate gallery known as “Viktor Ivanov and the Lands of Ryazan".
Andrei Kurnakov (1916-2010) donated much of his work to museums across Russia: he presented 115 of his pieces to the town of Oryol alone. To display them, he personally financed the building of a museum facility, now home to the Kurnakov Picture Gallery.
Meanwhile, Pyotr Ossovsky (1925-2015) initiated the project of bringing the history and art museum in his hometown of Malaya Viska in Ukraine back to life.
The brothers Sergei (born 1922) and Alexei Tkachev (born 1925) have given more than 200 of their paintings and drawings to the town of Bryansk, opening the “Tkachev Brothers Museum". The Museum is situated in a small early 20th century mansion, now renovated, in the Bezhitsk district of the city, not far from the street where the artists lived when they were children. In addition to their works, they donated to the museum a portion of their family archive, including presents from their artist friends, letters, photographs, newspaper and magazine cuttings, as well as monographs and albums devoted to their work.
The Alexander Shilov Art Gallery in Moscow is located in the centre of Moscow on Znamenka Street, in a renovated 1829 mansion designed by the Russian architect Yevgraph Tyurin. In 2003, a new wing was added to the main building: designed by Mikhail Posokhin, the new structure seamlessly blends with the old house. The gallery displays art by Shilov (born 1943) that he has gifted to the city.
The sculptor Alexander Burganov (born 1935) has spent a whole decade organizing the museum that is known as the “Burganov House". The museum has a distinctive appearance: its site, with its architectural and thematic unity, blends sculptural and architectural forms, with due regard given to the urban environment as well. The museum features Burganov's works, and also houses his studio, where he has been working for more than 30 years. The museum complex is multi-functional, hosting art exhibitions, academic conferences and theatrical performances, as well as running a workshop for children.
Museum "The Burganov House". Permanent exhibition.
Photograph. Museum archive
The sense of spiritual continuity and responsibility for the preservation of culture is also a tradition, the most productive principle in the field of art on which its achievements are based. The Academy has always understood this, and great practitioners of all art forms knew this principle and formulated it very well. The great Feodor Chaliapin wrote with his characteristic imagination:
“Of course, there can be different opinions about tradition in art. There is an immobile traditional canon, resembling a decrepit, sclerotic old man in the grip of many sicknesses and living by the cemetery's fence. <...> But I'm talking about the continuity of living elements of art, which contain many life-giving seeds. I cannot imagine an immaculate conception of new art forms... If there is a life - flesh and spirit - in them, this life by all means should have a genealogical link to the past."
The charter of the Russian Academy of Arts states that one of its key objectives is “improving the theory and practice of art education and aesthetic edification, and training art professionals of a high calibre".
In order to keep alive the traditions of artistic education, Tsereteli initiated regular shows of students' works in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and abroad. Reinstating the traditional awards to students of academic educational institutions, the Academy of Arts established a medal “For Academic Achievement", with the same words as were engraved on those from the times of Catherine the Great: “Pursuance brings achievement."
More recently, the term “masterclass" has entered the practice of the Academy, although “classes given by a master" have been a feature of its entire history. Academicians willingly allowed young people to visit their studios and observe the creative process (this was particularly true for artists such as Ivan Aivazovsky, who did not teach at the Academy). Such classes often gave rise to artistic clubs, many of which later developed into artistic schools.
Members of the Academy's community today have taken the baton from their illustrious predecessors, those members of the Imperial Academy. On a set date every month, Zurab Tsereteli gives masterclasses in one of the big rooms of his Art Gallery, to which all who are interested and want to learn skills are welcome, free of charge. Similar masterclasses have been given, in different locations over the years, by Andrei Mylnikov, Efrem Zverkov, Yevgeny Maximov, Eduard Drobitsky, Ilya Glazunov, Nikolai Vdovkin, Alexander Pokrovsky, Nikolai Solomin, Irina Starzhenetskaya, Mikhail Shankov, Valery Maloletkov, Igor Obrosov, Stanislav Benediktov, Andrei Bobykin, Sergei Andriyaka, Oleg Yeremeev, Mukhadin Kischev, Nikolai Mukhin, German Pashtov, Sergei Golynets and others.
Now a new generation of painters, sculptors, graphic artists and art scholars has joined the teaching faculty of art colleges, such figures including Vasily Tsereteli, Aidan Salakhova, Tatyana Nazarenko, Nikolai Mukhin, Alexander Teslik, Alexander Troshin, Viktor Kalinin, Mikhail Posokhin, Dmitry Shvidkovsky, Alexander Rukavishnikov and many others.
In such a way, the education of highly professional visual artists continues: it has always been, and will remain, the core mission of the Russian Academy of Arts.
- Full Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire. 1830. Vol. VII. P. 220.
- Petrov, P.N. “Collection of Materials for a History of the 100 Years of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts”. St. Petersburg, 1884. Vol. 1. P. 2. Hereinafter - Petrov.
- Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents (RGADA). Fund 248. The Senate. Book 2875. Sheet 211.
- Petrov. Pp. 102-106.
- Ibid. P. 151.
- Report of the Imperial Academy of Arts, 1909. St. Petersburg, 1910.
- Kondakov, Sergei. “The Imperial Academy of Arts”. St. Petersburg, 1914. Vol. 1. P. 202.
- Ibid. P. 53.
- Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. “Memoirs”. Moscow, 2008.
- Ibid. P. 169.
- On the 125th anniversary of the Gallery. “Faces of the Anniversary. Through the Pages...”// pkg.museum-penza.ru
- Sazonov, Valery. “The Konstantin Savitsky Picture Gallery”. Saratov, 1987. P. 6-8.
- Journal of the Imperial Academy of Arts, 1898. St. Petersburg, 1899. P. 144.
- Journal of the Imperial Academy of Arts, 1913. St. Petersburg, 1914. Pp. 3-4.
- Barsamov, N. “Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky”. Simferopol, 1953. P. 178.
- Archive of the Russian Academy of Arts.
- Chaliapin, Feodor. “Literaturnoe nasledstvo” (Literary Heritage). Moscow, 1960. Vol. 1. P. 271.
Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents
See: Kondakov, Sergei. "Imperial Academy of Arts". St. Petersburg, 1914.
The St. Petersburg Mint. Silver. Diameter - 87 mm. The Academy Research Museum
The St. Petersburg Mint. Bronze. Diameter - 51 mm. The Academy Research Museum
The Academy Research Museum
A copy after the original by Jean Louis Voille. Oil on canvas. The Academy Research Museum
Oil on canvas. 137.2 × 106 cm
Bas-relief. Marble, greenstone. 65 × 51 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
The portrait was accomplished when Fedot Shubin, the holder of an Academy of Arts fellowship, was in Rome
Photograph. See: Korneva, G., Cheboksarova, T. "Russia and Europe." St. Petersburg, 2010. P. 85
Oil on canvas. 155.5 × 139 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Oil on canvas. 106 × 84.5 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Oil on canvas. 85 × 68 cm. The Academy Research Museum
Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas. 135.7 × 99.4 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Oil on canvas. 82.4 × 64.9 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Watercolour on paper. 50.6 × 33.7 cm
Watercolour on paper. 17.6 × 25.2 cm
Oil on canvas. National Art Museum of Belarus, Minsk
Oil on canvas. 42.5 × 59.6 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Lead pencil on paper. 27.5 × 20.5 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
A page from Scotti’s album. Lead pencil on paper. Tretyakov Gallery
Photograph by Sergi Shagulashvili. Archive of Zurab Tsereteli
Oil on canvas. The Academy Research Museum
Oil on canvas. The Academy Research Museum
62.5 × 48.5 cm. Apartment-museum of Isaac Brodsky, St. Petersburg
Oil on canvas. 64 × 106 cm. Russian Museum
The Sergei Konenkov Memorial Studio-Museum, Moscow
Oil on canvas. 125 × 151 cm. Russian Museum
71 × 57 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Pastel on canvas. 106.5 × 106.5 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Oil on canvas. 215 × 175 cm. Branch of the Leningrad Theatre Museum
Oil on canvas. 108 × 67 cm. Tula Art Museum
Oil on canvas. 105 × 123 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Oil on canvas. 120 × 160 cm. Collection of Andrei Shandalov
Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas. mounted on hardboard. 80 × 60 cm. The Tkachev Brothers Museum, Bryansk
Photograph by Sergi Shagulashvili. Archive of Zurab Tsereteli
Presidium conference-hall of the Russian Academy of Arts, Prechistenka Street. Photograph
Plafond in the conference hall
Photograph. Archive of the Alexander Shilov Picture Gallery