The genealogy of Pavel M.Tretyakov can be traced only to the third generation, as all the archives of the town Maloyaroslavets, from where his ancestry originated, were burnt down in 1812, during the retreat of the Napoleon’s Army.
The Tretyakovs was an ancient, but not wealthy merchant family. In 1774, at the age of seventy the Third Guild merchant Elisei Tretyakov, a great-grandfather of Pavel Tretyakov, came to Moscow with his family, consisted of his wife Vasilisa and two sons - Zakhar and Osip. The family settled down in the neighborhood of St. Alexis Church between Tverskaya and Nikitskaya streets.
In 1795, after his parents had already passed away, the elder son Zakhar Eliseevich with his wife and four children moved into a new house in the same Yakimanskaya area in the neighborhood of St. Alexis Church. After his wife’s early death, Zakhar Eliseevich, the widower with five little children, got married for the second time. His second wife gave birth to his sons Mikhail (1801), and Sergei (1808). Zakhar Tretyakov died in 1816. By that time the family owned a small house next to Nikolo-Golutvin Church, five shops and other assets.
From his early age, Mikhail Tretyakov turned out to be clever, active and successful businessman. A wide selection of textiles (pestryad, canvas, ticking, dimity) was always in stock in his shops. After his brother’s death in 1831, Mikhail got the full share of the family’s property.
In 1831, Mikhail Tretyakov married Alexandra Borisova, a daughter of a wealthy merchant selling suet to England. At the beginning the merchant considered his daughter's marriage to be a misalliance, but in time he realized: Mikhail Tretyakov his son-in-law, was incredibly skilful and shrewd.
Pavel M.Tretyakov, the founder of the Gallery, 1871
In 1832, the first son of the young couple - Pavel Tretyakov - was born, followed by eight more children. Pavel began helping his father in the shops very early. Together with his younger brother Sergei they worked as cleaners, errand boys, clerks.
Mikhail Zakharovich was a man of poor health. In 1847 he made his will with "an advice to his wife and family on how to live, and an assignment for successors to own the property". He appointed his wife to be the head of his business and the trustee of his children. He also specified that if Pavel came of age by the moment of his death, he should be the second trustee. The will contained instructions "to keep the daughters in the family and marry in due time to proper men”. As for the sons Pavel and Sergei - they should be properly educated, brought up as merchants and stick to trade and people of their class". Mikhail Tretyakov died in 1850 at the age of forty-nine. After his death his wife Aleksanrda Danylovna controlled the family business.
Tretyakova (Borisova) Alexandra Danilovna, the moter of Pavel Tretyakov, 1890
Pavel Tretyakov's family, 1884 In 1852 the family bought a big house with a huge courtyard and a beautiful garden in the area of St. Nicholas Church in Tolmachi. By that time one of Pavel Tretyakov's sisters - Elizaveta - married a senior shopman Vladimir Konshin. The young family occupied two rooms in the same house too.
In 1859 Alexandra Danylovna, a merchant of the Second Guild, passed the family business to her sons Pavel and Sergei. The brothers made their sister Elizaveta’s husband Vladimir Konshin their new partner. On the 1st of January 1860 “A Trading House of P. and S. Tretyakov-brothers and V.Konshin” was opened in Ilyinka street. It was a shop, selling linen, cotton and woolen goods, produced in Russia and abroad.
Sergei M.Tretyakov, the younger brother of Pavel Tretyakov, 1856
By that time a younger brother - Sergey was also married (in 1856), but Pavel was still single. Only in August 1865 he married Vera Nikolaevna Mamontova (1844-1899), a cousin of a well-known maecenas Savva Mamontov. That was the beginning of a long and happy family life with 6 children. In 1866 the couple got their first daughter Vera (1866-1940), followed by 2 more girls Alexandra (1867-1959) and Lubov (1870-1928). The first son, Michael (1871-1912) was born weak and insane. The boy was a permanent distress to his parents. After Michael, two more children were born – a daughter Maria (1875-1952), and a son Ivan (1878-1887). In spite of the first son disability, it was a very happy family, where everybody loved each other. Harmony, trust, care, respect and joy were the main valuables of the family.
A great tragedy happened in 1887: Pavel Tretyakov’s favourite son and the hope of his life - Ivan died at the age of 9 from a scarlet fever complicated by a meningitis. To Pavel Mihajlovich, to all the family it was a terrible blow. But life went on. Later that year the oldest daughter Vera married a talented pianist Alexander Ziloti, a cousin of the composer Sergey Rahmaninov. Vera herself was a good pianist. Tretyakov’s relative – the great Russian composer Petr Chajkovsky years ago even advised her to enter the Conservatory and become a professional musician. But Pavel Mihajlovich Tretyakov stuck to the traditional home education for his children. His daughters got excellent training. Music, literature, foreign languages, concerts, theatres, art exhibitions, traveling were the main components of the education in the family. Famous artists, writers, musicians: Ivan Turgenev, Petr Chajkovsky, Anton Rubinshtein, Ilya Repin, Ivan Kramskoy, Victor Vasnetsov, Vasily Perov, Vasily Polenov and many, many others were frequent visitors in his house.
Pavel Tretyakov's family, 1884
The Tretyakovs liked to travel with or without children inside Russia or abroad. Every year Pavel Tretyakov used to go for a long journey. He and his wife Vera were people of delicate feelings towards the nature, art, music. Their children grew up the same. The oldest daughter got married to the musician and was happy all her life. The third daughter Lubov married an artist N.N.Gritsenko. Unfortunately he died soon. In her second marriage Lubov Tretyakova became wife of Leo Bakst - a well-known artist and decorator of Dyagilev's ballets for “Russian Seasons” in Paris. Two other daughters married sons of a prominent Russian clinical physician Sergey Petrovicha Botkin (1832-1889). Alexandra married Sergey Botkin - a doctor and art collector, Maria married Alexander Botkin – a navy officer, physician, inventor and explorer. Though Pavel Mihajlovich Tretyakov would prefer his daughters marry merchants, he did not hamper their choices.
Daughters and sons-in-law of Pavel Tretyakov, 1894
He secured his family financially, but always repeated, that «money should serve better purposes, than just be wasted for everyday needs». He wrote to his daughter Alexandra: «Since my early age I knew, that acquired from the society should return to the society in some useful to it form. ... Living conditions should never allow a person to live idle». Pavel Tretyakov himself worked hard all his life and hardly ever had spare time.
…Since his youth Pavel Tretyakov was fond of music, art and theatre. Being in St. Petersburg in 1852 on business trip, he sent home enthusiastic letters with descriptions of technical innovations (railroad), but also of theater performances he had seen recently. His fascination with the art inspired and brought him to collecting art works.
In July 1853, Pavel Tretyakov acquired 11 “paintings” at Sukharevka Market, where he used to buy books. Actually, those were simple drawings.
But in the following years he acquired real paintings made in oil. Those were pictures by Old Dutch masters. Later Tretyakov would prefer only canvases of Russian artists. Those first Dutch paintings were replaced in the house of his mother in Ilyinsky Lane. Later, however, they were returned to Lavrushinsky Lane to decorate the study of Pavel Mikhailovich.
Pavel Tretyakov didn’t have enough money to acquire paintings of famous contemporary artists. In 1856 he bought two pictures: "Skirmish with Finnish Smugglers" by V.G. Khudyakov and "Temptation" by N.G. Shilder, That year and those two pictures are considered to be the official initiation of the collection.