The museum was established on April 13, 1895, upon enthronement of Nicholas II to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, many private collections were nationalized and relocated to the Russian Museum.
The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace, a splendid Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, erected in 1819-25 to a design by Carlo Rossi on Square of Arts in St Petersburg.
My favorite part of the museum was its collection of iterate artists (Peredvizhniki). In 1863 a group of fourteen students decided to leave The Imperial Academy of Arts. The students found the rules of the Academy constraining; the teachers were conservative and there was a strict separation between high and low art. In an effort to bring art to the people, the students formed an independent artistic society; The Petersburg Cooperative of Artists (Artel). In 1870, this organization was largely succeeded by the Association of Traveling Art Exhibits (Peredvizhniki) to give a chance to people from provinces to follow the achievements of Russian Art, and to teach people to appreciate art. The society maintained independence from state support and brought the art, which illustrated the contemporary life of the people from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, to provinces.
From 1871 to 1923, the society arranged 48 mobile exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Moscow, after which they were shown in Kiev, Kharkov, Kazan, Oryol, Riga,Odessa and other cities.
Peredvizhniki were influenced by the public views of the literary critics Vissarion Belinsky and Nikolai Chernyshevsky. Belinsky thought that literature and art should attribute a social and moral responsibility. Like most Slavophiles, Chernyshevsky ardently supported the emancipation of serfs, which was finally realized in the reform of 1861. He viewed press censorship, serfdom, and capital punishment as Western influences. Because of his political activism, officials prohibited publication of any of his writing, including his dissertation; but it eventually found its way to the artworld of nineteenth-century Russia. In 1863, almost immediately after the emancipation of serfs, Chernyshevsky’s goals were realized with the help of Peredvizhniki, who took the pervasive Slavophile-populist idea that Russia had a distinguishable, modest, inner beauty of its own and worked out how to display it on canvas.
Peredvizhniki portrayed the many-sided aspects of social life, often critical of inequities and injustices. But their art showed not only poverty but also the beauty of the folk way of life; not only suffering but also fortitude and strength of characters. Peredvizhniki condemned the Russian aristocratic orders and autocratic government in their humanistic art. They portrayed the emancipation movement of Russian people with empathy (The Arrest of Propagandist; Refuse from Confession; Not Expected by Ilya Yefimovich Repin).
|Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin|
|Portrait of Artist Ivan Shishkin by Ivan Kramskoy|
|The Taking of a Snow Fortress by Vasily Surokov|
|Tolstoy by Ilya Repin|
|Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, Ilya Repin|