How a visit to the Hermitage turned the fate of a merchant: facts from the history of the Tretyakov Gallery are little known
It is unlikely that we could today contemplate and admire the masterpieces of Russian painting, if not for the event that happened a little more than 125 years ago. Namely, in the summer of 1892, the merchant Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov donated to the Muscovites the most valuable thing that he had – the work of his whole life – a collection of works of Russian art, which he had been collecting for almost 40 years.
Being a native of the famous merchant family, Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898) was not only a successful entrepreneur, but also a connoisseur of fine art, to which he had a special flair. Relying only on his artistic taste, he was able to distinguish true art from one-day paintings.
When collecting his collection, he did not pursue relevant works and fashionable authors; he was not interested in technique and elaborate manner. Sometimes he bought canvases contrary to criticisms from the public and art historians. And breaking the will of Tretyakov was practically impossible. Convinced that his collection of works of art would remain forever, he carefully approached his every choice. So in those days, his unprofessional opinion was opposed to the preferences of the whole Academy of Arts.
In each work, he first of all looked for sincerity and truthfulness and, acquiring paintings, listened only to his heart. Once ordering a landscape of Goravsky, the collector wrote to the painter: “I don’t need either rich nature, magnificent composition, spectacular lighting, any miracles, give me at least a dirty pool, but that it really has poetry, and poetry in everything can perhaps this is the artist’s business … ”
You will be surprised, but at one time Pavel Tretyakov did not want to purchase the paintings “Girl with Peaches” by Valentin Serov and “Portrait of the Unknown” by Ivan Kramskoy, rejecting it because of excessive “beauty”. It is after his death that these paintings will become the property of the Tretyakov Gallery.
The foundation date of the Tretyakov collection is considered to be May 22, 1856, when Pavel Tretyakov first acquired two works of Russian artists – The Temptation by Nikolai Schilder and The Clash with Finnish Smugglers by Vasily Khudyakov. At that time, Pavel Mikhailovich was only 24 years old, but he already knew for sure that he had a passion for art for his whole life.
Pavel was the eldest son of Mikhail Zakharovich Tretyakov, the owner of the flax spinning and weaving mill in Kostroma and the holder of five shops in the Old Trade Rows on Ilyinka. He was very young when their father died. And from the age of 14, the teenager had to accept all the affairs of his father in order to support a large family. After all, besides him, his mother still had four children.
Fortunately, Pavel turned out to be a successful entrepreneur: the manufacture of their family became one of the best in the country. The younger brother Sergey, who supports Pavel in all endeavors: from business to the creation of the gallery, also played a huge role in the common cause.
And it all started when Pavel, a 20-year-old young man, having visited St. Petersburg, visited the Hermitage, which greatly impressed the young Tretyakov. On his next trip, he met Fedor Pryanishnikov, the owner of an impressive collection of Russian painting. Seeing his collection, Tretyakov got a dream and devoted himself to self-education, collected literature on art, visited all exhibitions and read reviews. And besides, he began to take the first steps in collecting. Pavel, while still a teenager, often liked to drop by at the Sukharevsky market, where there were rubble of all kinds. And in 1854-55, in the same market he acquired 20 paintings of old Dutch masters. Well, as it turned out later, some of the paintings bought turned out to be fakes.
And since that time, Tretyakov has sworn to buy old works: “The most authentic picture for me is the one that was personally bought from the artist.” And he began to collect works of only Russian masters. However, there were exceptions when the collector acquired works that passed away from the life of the masters. But these were rare occasions when he was sure of the authenticity of the picture one hundred percent.
Eleven years after the first acquisitions, the Tretyakov Gallery had more than a thousand paintings, almost five hundred drawings and a dozen sculptures. Young artists went there to gain experience and inspiration, and already venerable painters were looking for the friendship and patronage of Tretyakov.