The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Russian: Музей изобразительных искусств им. А.С. Пушкина, also known as ГМИИ) is the largest museum of European art in Moscow, located in Volkhonka street.
At the present time the collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts comprises over 670,000 paintings, works of sculpture, drawings, works of applied art, archaeological artifacts, coins and medals and art photographs. Its repository of manuscripts contains documents relating to the history of the Museum, academic works and letters written by the Museum’s founder, by other leading lights of the Museum and well known art-historians and artists and, also, archive materials from several museums whose collections were transferred to the Pushkin Museum.
The ceremony for the laying of the Museum’s foundation stone took place on August 17, 1898 in the presence of Tsar Nicholas II and members of his family. The name of the museum – Alexander III Fine Arts Museum – was officially approved. Building work had commenced a month before that ceremony, which was important as by then the Committee for the Establishment of the Museum already had at its disposal a major part of its collections.
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts’ building was designed by Roman Klein and Vladimir Shukhov and financed primarily by Yury Nechaev-Maltsov. Construction work began in 1898 and continued till 1912. Ivan Rerberg headed structural engineering effort on the museum site for 12 years, till 1909.
The Museum was created on the basis of Moscow University’s “Cabinet of Fine Arts and Antiquities” which had been set up as both a public museum and one for educational purposes. In it the main stages in the history of art from ancient times until the post-Renaissance era were represented through casts, models, painted copies and galvanocopies. This museum was the first of its kind in Russia. Work to create it had been initiated (1893) by the highly respected Professor Ivan Tsvetaev (1847-1943), who had a doctorate in Latin literature and art history and was later to be the Museum’s first director (1911-1913).
The Museum has its own restoration workshops and one of Moscow’s finest specialist academic libraries.
In 1991 the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts was added to the state register of particularly valuable institutions constituting the cultural heritage of the peoples of the Russian Federation.
Fine Art Collection:
Tsvetaev’s dream was realised in May 1912, when the museum opened its doors to the public. The museum was originally named after Alexander III, although the government provided only 200,000 rubles toward its construction, in comparison with over 2 million from Nechaev-Maltsev. Its first exhibits were copies of ancient statuary, thought indispensable for the education of art students. The only genuinely ancient items – Moscow Mathematical Papyrus and Story of Wenamun – had been contributed by Vladimir Golenishchev three years earlier.
After World War II the evacuated Dresden Gallery had been stored in Moscow for 10 years. The Dresden collection was finally returned to German Democratic Republic, despite strong opposition from the museum officials, notably Irina Antonova, who had been running the museum since February 1961. The Pushkin Museum is still a main depositary of Troy’s the so-called Priam’s Treasure gold hoard removed from Troy by the German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann and later taken by the Soviet Army (Red Army) from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin; as well as other artifacts taken from Germany during the Soviet occupation at the end of the Second World War, for example the Eberswalde Hoard.
The Pushkin Museum has a numismatic collection which is unpublished. It includes archaeological material from Central Asia, such as a hoard of Kushano-Sasanian coins acquired in 2002.
The museum’s current name is somewhat misleading, in that it has no direct associations with the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, other than as a posthumous commemoration of his name and fame. The facility was founded by professor Ivan Tsvetaev (father of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva). Tsvetaev persuaded the millionaire and philanthropist Yuriy Nechaev-Maltsov and the fashionable architect Roman Klein of the urgent need to give Moscow a fine arts museum. After going through a number of name-changes, particularly in the transition to the Soviet-era and the return of the Russian capital to Moscow, the museum was finally renamed to honour the memory of Pushkin in 1937, the 100th anniversary of his death.