Donation of the Tretyakov Gallery to Moscow city

On July, 25 in 1892 Sergei Tretyakov, the younger brother of Pavel Tretyakov, unexpectedly died. Sergei’s last will and testament stipulated that his collection of Russian and European art should be added to the Gallery of his older brother. Sergei Tretyakov’s collection of Russian paintings was relatively small, but valuable. The younger brother didn’t want to compete with his older brother, and therefore concentrated on collecting Western  European painting.

Третьяков Павел Михайлович. 1891

Третьяков Сергей Михайлович. 1880-е

In August of 1892 Pavel Tretyakov bestowed his art gallery to Moscow City. By this time the collection consisted of 1,287 paintings, 518 drawings and 9 sculptures by Russian artists and 75 paintings and 8 drawings by European artists (mainly French and German masters of the late 19th century). This gift was estimated at 1,429,000 roubles.

News about the incredible generosity of Pavel Tretyakov’s gift to Moscow, spread all over the city, and in December 1896 he was proclaimed an Honourable Citizen of Moscow. An official statement by the Moscow municipal Duma (city parliament) declared that it was "a sign of the great gratitude for the aesthetic pleasure and education which both the citizens of Moscow and all the Russian people have gained  with this gift of treasures so carefully collected by Pavel Tretyakov". The Moscow Municipal Duma also decided to allocate 5000 roubles for the acquisition of art works for the Gallery every year.  In 1893 the Gallery was officially named “The Pavel and Sergei Tretyakov Moscow City Art Gallery. Entrance was free to the public.

After presenting the collection to the city Tretyakov did not turn away from the Gallery. On the contrary he was appointed its trustee and remained trustee to the end of his life.

In the 1980’s, the collection was enriched with more than 200 paintings and drawings Among them were thirty works including paintings by N.Ghe, Pavel Tretyakov’s portrait painted by I.Repin (a gift from his heirs in 1895) and also canvases by A.Savrasov, V.Serov, N.Kasatkin and M.Nesterov..

From 1893 onwards, Pavel Tretyakov began publishing annual catalogues of the collection. He contacted artists, their relatives and heirs and fellow collectors to add facts and details about the painting to his catalogues. Sometimes he would suggest changing the names of the paintings, making them shorter or more precise. The 1898 catalogue was the most complete and detailed edition ever produced and containted descriptions of 1,635 art works.

That was the last catalogue ever prepared by the great collector, but it was published only after his death.

Грамота об избрании П.М. Третьякова Московской городской Думой почетным гражданином Москвы. 1987

Экспозиция Городской художественной галереи П.М. и С.М.Третьяковых. 1898

Tretyakov spent most of his time at his textile factory and in the Gallery. He was also an honorary member of many boards, scientific committees and educational institutions including  “The Moscow Society of Art Amateurs”, “The Moscow Art Society”, “The Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture” and others. He contributed significantly to the foundation of the Antique Art Museum in Moscow University, which later became a basis for the Museum of Fine Arts. Plaster casts of antique sculptures from Roman museums were made with Tretyakov’s financial backing. He also supported the Arnold School of Deaf-and-Dumb Children and sponsored an expedition to Australia by the great Russian ethnographer and explorer N.Miklukho-Maklay. He was a great philanthropist and established numerous grants and stipends to help the poor. The list of Pavel Tretyakov’s donations was endless.

Despite all this activity Pavel Tretyakov still set aside time to spend with his family. Being a fourth generation merchant, Tretyakov insisted on his daughters marrying merchants too, so when Vera Tretyakova fell in love with a pianist Alexander Ziloti (cousin of the composer S.Rakhmaninov) she suffered many trials and tribulations before her father finally gave his consent to their marriage. Sergei Botkin, a doctor and art collector, became Alexandra Tretyakova’s husband. His brother Alexander Botkin, also a doctor, who later became a hydrology engineer and an explorer of the Far North, married Masha Tretyakova. In May 1894 Lyubov Tretyakova married an artist Nikolay Gritsenko, but he died soon after, and in 1900, she married Lev Bakst – a famous painter and stage designer performances by Diaghilev in Paris. While Pavel Tretyakov had his own set ideas on things he was an open-minded person and respected the talents of his sons-in-law.

In 1898 Tretyakov bought a canvas by V.Vasnetsov called "Warrior Knights". That was his last ever acquisition. The picture still hangs on the same wall in the same hall, where he placed it.

In his final years Pavel Tretyakov was in a state of continual ill health. He was also racked with worry about his wife’s ill health following her stroke. In November 1898 he went on his last business trip to St.-Petersburg. On his return, his health declined rapidly and on December 4th, at the age of 66, the founder of one of the greatest museums of the world passed away. His last words addressed to his relatives, were: “Take care of the Gallery and be well…”

Though his wife Vera Nikolayevna was 13 years younger than her husband, she outlived him by only three months.