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Russian Art Museum in Kyiv
Maryna GUDZEVATA tells a story of a Kyiv museum entirely devoted to art — the Museum of Russian Art in Kyiv which has one of the most important collections of paintings in Ukraine. A number of works — whose total number is over 12,000 — in the collection can be described as true masterpieces.
The museum is situated right in the center of Kyiv, opposite the central building of the Taras Shevchenko National University. The building that houses the museum used to belong to Fedir Tereshchenko (1832–1894), a wealthy industrialist and patron of art.
It was Tereshchenko’s father Artemy, who had accumulated a large capital, trading in bread, timber, sugar and other commodities. He involved his sons, Fedir included, in his business activities. For his philanthropic work, the Russian Emperor Alexander II made Artemy a hereditary noble in 1870. The brothers Tereshchenko were particularly successful in sugar-making business.
Fedir Tereshchenko began collecting works of art in the early 1870s. In 1880 he bought a house for himself and his family, and for his growing collection. The building still stands and now houses collections of paintings, drawings, works of applied and decorative art from the various periods in the history of Russian art.
The collection of paintings contains icons of the 13th–18th centuries, portraits of the 18th century, paintings of the 19th and of the 20th centuries; the 19th century in Russian art is represented particularly well.
The interiors of the museum have been adjusted to the needs of displaying art, but they have preserved a very cozy, “homey” atmosphere of a private house.
According to Yuriy Vakulenko, director of the museum, no catalogues of Tereshchenko’s art collection have survived and we do not know how many items were in his collection. It is known for sure though, that 21 paintings among those that the present day collection contains, did belong to Tereshchenko.
In acquiring works of art, Tereshchenko did not solely rely on his own taste — he sought advice from art historians and critics, and consulted connoisseurs. Judging by the photographs of the interiors of his house, paintings were hung both in living rooms and in a special gallery.
Tereshchenko’s gallery, which had a separate entrance, was opened to the public for a certain period of time on Saturdays from 1 pm to 4 pm. It is not known for sure though, for how long the gallery stayed open to the public, or how many people visited it.
For his various activities, Fedir Tereshchenko was awarded several orders (including the French Order of the Honorary Legion) and honorary titles. When he died in June 1894, his passing was mourned by the people of Kyiv. He was buried in the town of Hlukhov in the Anastasiyivsky Cathedral which had been built with the money donated by the Tereshchenko family.
Tereshchenko willed his house and art collection to his son and wife. Nadezhda Tereshchenko continued her late husband’s philanthropic work. During WWI she set up a military hospital in her house; in 1915, she was paid a visit by the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna (mother of the then Russian Emperor Nicholas II).
1917 turned out to be a year of turbulent political events — abdication of the tsar; establishment of the Provisional Government in Moscow; collapse of the Russian Empire; Ukraine’s autonomy and then full independence; Bolshevik coup d’etat; Civil War. The Tereshchenko family left Kyiv in 1918 and the house was used by various organizations for their purposes. At one time or another it was the central office of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Ukrainian governments; headquarters of the Red Army, the White Guards Army, and of units of other armies that alternately held Kyiv.
By the end of 1920, Civil War was over, the Bolsheviks had established their power over most of the former Russian Empire (minus Poland and the Baltic States). In 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was established, and Ukraine became a constituent part of it (the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, with Ukraine and other former soviet republics regaining their independence; it was only then that the Tereshchenkos were given full credit for their philanthropic work).
Tereshchenko’s collection and house miraculously survived the wars and revolutions, and in November 1922, an art center in Kyiv was established in Tereshchenko’s house — the Picture Gallery of Kyiv. The core of the collection was made up of paintings from the collections of the Tereshchenko family with numerous additions from other private collections which had been nationalized. The gallery acquired excellent works of art from the Tereshchenkos’ collection, among them paintings by a number of leading Russian artists of the nineteenth century Ivan Shishkin; Ivan Kramskoy; Viktor Vasnetsov; Vasiliy Polenov; Mikhail Vrubel; Pavel Fedotov; Vasiliy Vereshchagin, to name the most important ones.
The gallery was upgraded to a museum and the museum began to acquire new works. In the soviet times, one of the ways of expanding museum collections was an exchange of art works among various museums.
In June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and later that year the Nazi troops occupied Kyiv and most of Ukraine. Most of the museum’s collections had been evacuated before the Nazis took Kyiv, but a considerable number of museum items had been left behind. The Nazis took to Germany about 1,500 museum items, among them priceless icons of the 15th–16th centuries. But the building itself was not damaged and rather soon after the war, the evacuated works were returned to the museum.
The museum was funded by the state to buy works of art, and in the post-war years, the museum acquired many excellent paintings and other works of art. In 1986, David Sigalov, a physician and art collector from Kyiv, willed his collection to the museum and thus the museum’s collection received about 300 paintings and graphic works by Russian painters of the end of nineteenth – early twentieth centuries (Konstantin Somov; Boris Kustodiev; Zinaida Serebryakova; Sergey Sudeykin, and others).
The museum possesses quite an extensive collection of works of art created in the soviet period which was dominated by the so-called Socialist Realism, but the museum exhibits only those works which meet the very strict standards of good art.
Says Yuriy Vakulenko, “We are planning to create a sort of a winter garden, thus doing what Fedir Tereshchenko wanted to do but for some reason failed. For this, we’ll build a glass roof over the inner yard of the museum. Our plans also include setting up of an information center, a small hotel for art historians and museum workers from other cities and foreign countries to stay at when they come to Kyiv to study our museum collections. We want to have a little cafe and a little store, the way many museums in foreign countries do. For all this, we need to have additional space, of course. The museum originally was a private house where people lived. At present, we use some of the rooms for offices and storage. When we have additional rooms, we shall be able to use them for ‘technical’ purposes, and use all the rooms of the original house for exhibiting art works“.
“On the one hand, the fact that the museum used to be a private house creates certain problems for the museum; on the other hand, it gives the visitors — and to us, working in the museum as well — a very special ‘home feel’. People feel comfortable. Paintings on the walls are like concentrations of artistic and psychic energies, to which people can much better relate when they walk through the halls in the relaxing atmosphere of our museum than they can do in the huge halls of big museums.
Also, we regularly organize all kinds of exhibitions, which are particularly popular with the art loving public.”
When asked, which works he considers to be worthy of a particular attention, Mr Vakulenko said, “People go to the Louvre in Paris to see Leonardo’s Giaconda; similarly, art lovers come to our museum to see the icon of Boris and Gleb that dates from the 13th century, to see Mikhail Vrubel’s Angel with a Censer and a Candle, to see Viktor Vasnetsov’s Three Princesses of the Underground Kingdom, or landscapes by Ivan Shishkin. Incidentally, Vasnetsov’s painting was recently shown at an exhibition in the Netherlands, and as far as we know both the organizers of the exhibition and the viewers were of a very high opinion about it. ”
The pride of the museum are a number of works by Russian artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Peredvizhniki among them. Peredvizhniki — the Circle of the Itinerants (or Wanderers), whose works are widely represented in the museum, were a group of Russian realist artists who were in protest at academic restrictions. Among the Peredvizhniki artists were Arkhipov, Ghe, Kuindzhi (he painted beautiful landscapes of Ukraine), Kramskoy, Levitan, Perov, Polenov, Repin, Ryabushkin, Savrasov, Shishkin, Surikov, A. Vasnetsov, V. Vasnetsov. Works of practically all of these artists are exhibited in the Museum of Russian Art in Kyiv.
Mikhail Vrubel is considered to be one of the great exponents of the Symbolist movement in Russian painting. In reality, he deliberately stood aloof from contemporary art trends, so that the origin of his unusual manner should be probably sought in the Late Byzantine and Early Renaissance painting. In the early period of his creative work he lived in Kyiv and one can definitely say that it was in Kyiv that Vrubel turned into a brilliant painter. The museum boasts, among Vrubel’s other Kyiv period paintings, A Girl against a Persian Carpet which is considered to be one of Vrubel’s masterpieces.
Paintings of such artists of wide renown as Dmitriy Levitsky, Ivan Aivazovsky, Vladimir Makovsky, Vasiliy Khudyakov, Boris Kustodiev, Nikolay Roerich, to name just a few, can also be seen at the Museum of Russian Art in Kyiv.
Illustrations have been provided by the Museum of Russian Art in Kyiv
Photos by Mykhaylo Andreyev
Museum of Russian Art in Kyiv
9 Tereshchenkivska Str.
Open from 10 am till 6 pm.
Mondays from 11 am till 6 pm.
Closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays,
and the last day of each month.
The facade of Fedir Tereshchenko’s
Fedir Tereshchenko in the “white
The interior of the “white sitting-room”,
Head of a Male by Aleksandr Ivanov.
Portrait of Grand Princess Yelena
Portrait of a Ukrainian Peasant
A Sea Shore by Ivan Aivazovsky.
“In the Wilds of the North…” by Ivan Shishkin.
A Russian Knight
Three Princesses of the Underground
Self-portrait by Nikolay Ghe.
Portrait of Poet S. Gorodetsky
Nestor the Chronicler by Mark Antokolsky.
Marble, 145 x 96 5 89 cm. 1892.
A Girl against a Persian Carpet by Mikhail Vrubel.
Oil on canvas, 104 x 68 cm. 1886.
Angel with a Censer and a Candle by Mikhail Vrubel.
Study for a mural in the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr
St Nicholas by Nikolay Roerich.
Tempera on canvas, 71,5 x 88,5 cm. 1916.
Hoar-Frost by Igor Grabar.
Oil on canvas, 102,5 x 102,5 cm. 1907–1908.
Portrait of Y. Krasilshchikova by Valentin Serov.
Oil on canvas, 125 x 71 cm. 1906.
Figure composition The Rape of Europa
by Valentin Serov. Manufactured by the Imperial
Porcelain Factory, St Petersburg in 1915.
Porcelain, 24 x 44,5 x 11,5 cm. 1910.
Kyivsky muzey obrazotvorchoho mystetstva — Kyiv Museum of Russian Art is the first volume in a series, Derzhavni zibrannya Ukrayiny (State Collections of Ukraine), which is devoted to visual art in Ukraine.
This series has been launched by Oleksiy Danylov and Mykhaylo Andreyev.
Kyiv Museum of Russian Art is a result of a collaborative effort of the museum staff and of all those who have been involved in editing the book and preparing it for publication.
Introduction was written, and general editing was done by Tamara Soldatova and Kateryna Ladyzhynska; the design was provided by the artist Yevhen Matveyev, and the photographs were taken by Mykhaylo Andreyev.