Moscow Main Archive about the construction of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

August 19

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts will celebrate its 110th anniversary next year. The Moscow Main Archives preserved valuable documents dedicated to its formation and development.

The Art Museum in Moscow was decided to be established in the second half of the 19th century. It was created by teachers of the Imperial Moscow University — the city center of science and culture of that time. Here students studied history and theory of arts.

As a first step, Professor Ivan Tsvetaev, poetess Marina Tsvetaeva’s father — was assigned in 1888 to supplement the collection of the university’s ancient sculpture samples. At first, it was planned to build an educational and auxiliary institution at the Department of History and Theory of Fine Arts, but then it became clear that it was necessary to create a large sculpture museum.

Many wealthy citizens donated for this project. For example, executors of widow Varvara Alekseeva, who belonged to a well-known merchant dynasty, allocated 150 thousand rubles for the construction of the building. Only one condition should have been observed: money could be donated if the museum was named after Alexander III of Russia. Pavel Tretyakov, Prince Alexander Shcherbatov, Savva Morozov, and many others generously donated for the needs of the new museum.

In 1896, the Moscow City Duma considered the issue of constructing a museum on the site of the former Kolymazhny Yard that is now a part of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Young architect Roman Klein was entrusted to develop the project.

Preparations for the construction that was actively promoted by the city authorities began in 1898. The museum construction committee chairman was Moscow Governor-General, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, and entrepreneur and philanthropist Yuri Nechaev-Maltsov became his deputy.

The staff of the Museum of Fine Arts named after Alexander III of Russia was approved in 1909. The employees salaries also testified to the high status of the new cultural center. Thus, the salary of the building caretaker, being also the senior writing official, was1,300 rubles a year, and that of the senior caretaker was 1,500 rubles. Plus, lodging was free of charge. Junior keepers’ salary was also 1,500 rubles a year, but free lodging benefit was not provided. To better understand these figures, it is worth knowing that the price of a kilogram of beef was about 45 kopecks, and a coat cost about 15 rubles.

Also in 1909, the “Regulations on the Museum of Fine Arts named after Alexander III of Russia at the Moscow University” appeared. It stated that the museum was the University’s educational and auxiliary institution designed to collect and store artifacts of art and culture of the East, the antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, as well as the Modern times, in copies and originals.

Professor Ivan Tsvetaev, the founder of the Museum of Fine Arts named after Alexander III of Russia, became its first director in 1911. The museum was opened in 1912.

It remained a University institution and lectures were given to students and practical classes were conducted here. For this purpose it included a library, a reading room, and an auditorium. Along with that, private donations that formed the basis for the museum construction, granted everyone the right to visit the cultural center.

The museum was divided into three departments: “Oriental” with artifacts from Babylon, Ancient Egypt, Assyria, and ancient Persia, “Classical” with the exhibits from Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the department of “the Christian times”. Visitors could trace the historical development of sculpture, architecture, and painting, as well as study the history of art.


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