P.M. Tretyakov and his portrait gallery
Conceived as a “gallery in a gallery”, the portrait gallery of Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1832–1898) is a significant artistic phenomenon of the national culture of the second half of the 19th century. None of the researchers who wrote about the collection activities of the founder of the gallery, did not overlook the collection of portraits, and could not get around.
The Tretyakov portrait gallery reflects the main milestones in the development of 19th century Russian portrait painting and is an artistic “whole”. Tretyakov in this process acted as a creator and catalyst.
Many collections, modern Tretyakov, included pictorial and sculptural portraits of famous figures, in particular the F.I. Pryanishnikov, V.A. Kokoreva, K.T. Soldatenko. However, none of these ideas has not received such a large-scale embodiment as the portrait gallery of P.M.Tretyakov, which included pictorial, graphic and sculptural portraits of prominent representatives of Russian culture.
For his gallery, Tretyakov ordered portraits to artists, acquired them from exhibitions, looked for or, in his words, “got”, bartered, bought in private collections and antique shops, negotiated with relatives and close people who kept images of those who were interested in him. Tretyakov did not want the portraits to be executed by one painter, “one brush”, so he tried to attract a variety of artists to orders — from well-known, already recognized, to inexperienced and beginning painters, thus stimulating new beginnings and giving the opportunity to show their talent young artists. From the very beginning, he sought to have a wide representation in the gallery being created, both portrayed and portrait painters.
Mindful of words, Tretyakov left several precise definitions of his “brainchild”. In the words of Pavel Mikhailovich, his gallery consists of portraits of “Russian writers, composers and in general figures in the artistic and academic parts.” In fact, the portraits of writers and poets are superior in number to all others. In the same letter of 1870, the initial time of collecting the portrait gallery, he emphasized the importance of portraits for him: “… my collection, paintings of the Russian school and portraits (highlighted by the author – T.Yu.)”. He writes about his intention rather modestly, while his plans at the turn of 1860–1870s are a grandiose project: “I collect portraits of our writers in my collection of“ Russian painting ”.
Of course, the attitude to the portrait gallery, its role in the created museum of national art in the mind of Tretyakov changed. The reason for the changes was rooted in the gradual and quite logical expansion of the tasks of their own activities.
The portrait gallery has been formed for almost thirty years: the first series of orders executed specifically for the “best people” gallery followed in 1869, and the last portrait was acquired in the year of the collector’s death (I.E. Braz. “Portrait of AP Chekhov” 1898). But this does not mean that the formation of the portrait gallery went smoothly, according to a pre-planned program. On the contrary, it developed unevenly, as conceived by Tretyakov stretched out in time, it went, so to speak, in “jumps.” There were extremely “fruitful” years. A series of portraits was a success easily and immediately, but a whole block of portraits was never realized. Started work sometimes could not have continued. There were delays: life circumstances interfered, the shortness of daylight in winter Petersburg interfered and the lack of clear days prevented the employment of certain people (their departure from Russia) and even the state of mind and personal qualities of the portrait. The models were justified by putting forward a variety of reasons – the lack of “good mood, or at least peace of mind,” “unfeigned” modesty, and “the conviction that my activity is /I.A. Goncharova – T.Yu. / not so wonderful … “. Tretyakov insisted on writing individual portraits for years.
The most numerous and perhaps the brightest block of custom-made portrait portraits belongs to the initial period of the portrait gallery design — by 1869 and the first half of the 1870s. In the second half of the 1870s and in the first half of the 1880s, orders and acquisitions continued, but the tendency towards their reduction is obvious. The quantitative reduction of portraits is probably due to the programmatic turn in collecting Tretyakov. “I set out to assemble the Russian school, as it is in its successive course,” – PM PM stated in 1879. Tretyakov is a further development vector of the gallery. His words read the awareness of the next stage of the gathering policy, ascertaining the new understanding of the tasks and the new quality of the collection, whose tasks include the presentation, above all, of the history of Russian art.
Soon, he started another extension to the gallery, which resulted in significant changes in the exposure. If earlier, as the observant contemporary notes, the portraits in the Tretyakov Gallery were “crowded both at the bottom and at the top,” now they are “hung by masters” “in chronological order.”