Russian Art!

Throughout most of Russia's history, art, music, literature, and history were either folk art or that of the Orthodox Church. The reason for this is that during the Renaissance, Russia was a hegemony of the Mongol-Tatar Empire and thus missed the rebirth of the arts which swept Western Europe. Peter I and Catherine II changed all that with the secularization of Russian culture in the 18th century. Russian artists, however, have always had to leave Russia to escape realism imposed on them by the Russian critics and art world. Chagal, Kandinsky, and many other progressive artists could only develop their art in Western Europe. This page contains a growing list of sources on Russian art: folk, ecclesiastical, and secular.

The History of Russian Art


Alexander Boguslawski of Rollins College maintains a wonderfully rich site describing and illustrating the history of Russian art from the icons to the 20th century. The site discusses periods, artists, schools, and trends. It is beautifully designed and laid out so as to be easily navigated. Everything you want to know about Russian art, including the art itself, may be found here. Boguslawski has now added an equally splendid exhibit and treatise on Russian lubok folk painting.

Icons of Kievan Rus' from the 11th-16th Century

"Icon" comes from Greek eikon 'image' and the Russian word for 'image', obraz, is another word for 'icon'. Icons were painted in egg tempera on basswood and were believed to be a direct link between the soul of mortals and those of the sacred figures they represented. Kissing them was hence an act of adoration of those figures. Here is an excellent exhibition of some of the earliest icons from Russian and Ukrainian history mounted by the Archdiocese of Lviv, Ukraine.

The Hermitage

Zimnyij dvorec

At last the home of the world's second largest and most impressive collection of art is on-line. The Hermitage web site does not give you the effect of a two-day visit to the museum itself, but it is a large and complex site worthy of its origin. There are excursions through the Menshikov Palace and the Palace of Peter I, lectures, exhibits and much more. A rich and exciting resource.

19th Century Russian Painting

George Mitrevski has provided an electronic gallery of the masterpieces of Russian 19th century paintings. The images are best viewed on a Mac; if you are using a PC and the pictures are dark, download them and view them in L-View or some other viewer which allows you to increase the brightness. Sergei Naoumov has put up an exhibit of his favorite 19th century paiter, I. K. Avazovski, and S. V. Ivanov.

Gallery of I. K. Aivazovsky

Sergei Naumouv has been kind enough to share an old picture book with us. Aivazovsky was Russia's premier seascape painter.

Peter Karl Faberge and Russian Imperial Eggs

Peter Carl Faberge was born in St. Petersburg May 30, 1846. His father, Gustav, started a jewelry firm just four years before his birth at 11 Bol'shoi Morskoi. Faberge the younger took over his father's business in 1872 and set off on a brilliant career. He is known particularly for his elaborate Easter eggs. The rest of the story you can find at this site. Links to other sites may be found here. Don't forget that the Imperial Palace also maintained a tradition of porcelaine Easter eggs. Learn about them at the Russian Imperial Easter Egg site.

The Andrei Rublyov Museum

At present this museum, named after the great Russian medieval icon painter, has in its possession a collection of 14th - 19th century icons of the Moscow, Tver and Northern schools, fragments of monumental painting, early Russian wooden sculptures and facsimile copies of frescoes. Click here for a short biography.

Art Galleries and Museums of Moscow

This is a list of the addresses and telephone numbers of the major galleries and museums of Moscow.

Art Galleries and Museums of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is packed full of architectural and cultural wonders with enough palaces, museums, and sights to overwhelm even the hungriest of culture-vultures. The Hermitage, of course, is the centerpiece of Petersburg's museum scene but there are plenty of other museums covering a wide variety of topics and interests. Unfortunately several lesser-known museums are closing, some due to lack of interest and funding (like the Communications Museum), others (such as the Central Lenin Museum and the History of the Young Communist League Museum) for ideological reasons.

Lili BrochetainCollection

The Lili Brochetain Collection in Paris has long been known among specialists to be one of the world's largest collections of Russian "non-conformist art" from the period between the 1960's and the 1980's. While numerous references to the Collection appear in publications in Europe, the United States and in Russia, this online exhibition represents the first time the Lili Brochetain Collection has been widely available for public viewing.

Russian Architecture

The 'Little Russia' site, maintained by Vladimir Pekkel, offers an overview of Muscovite architecture from the 13th to the 19th centuries, the Baroque architecture of St. Petersburg, the folk architecture of Kizhi, and more. Seanet offers a beautiful architectural stroll through the city of Moscow. It includes stops at a few museums, too.

Russian Constructivism

The Russian modernist art movement of the 20's --Kandinsky, Malevich, Tatlin, and others -- had a great impact on European modern art. Here is a lovely exhibit with links to other exhibits centered around this important movement.

The Russian Empire, 1895-1910

Photographs from the stereoscopic negatives of the Keystone-Mast Collection of the California Museum of Photography, University of California Riverside. This is a selection of the 900 photographs of Russian archiecture and other historical objects taken between 1895-1910 before Stalin's decree on monumental art which led to the destruction of many of these objects.

Vasilli Kandinsky (1866-1944)

A wonderful exhibition of Kandinsky's earlier and abstract paintings by Nicolas Pioch. Mark Hardin's Texas.Net Museum of Art also has a significant collection of Kandinsky's work.

The Icons of Novgorod

This is a stunning exhibition of icon-painting in ancient Novgorod the Great. The exhibit contains many high-resolution color photographs accompanied by unusually informative texts.


Khokhloma is a former trading center in the Transvolga region where wood craftsmen brought their wares for sale at the market. According to legend, Boyar B. I. Morozov began ordering the unique designs of cups and eating utensils in the XVII century when they became popular in Moscow and other large cities. The Khokhloma designs are noted for their use of gold paint on wooden dinnerware. (If the table of contents is gibberish, just begin clicking at the top and work your way down. Requires Windows 1251 fonts.)

The New Gallery (Socialist Realism)

The "New Gallery" specializes on Soviet art of Socialist Realism of the 1920-1950-s. It functions as closed gallery, art foundation, collecting works of art and preparing them for further exhibitions and auctions as well as for decorating offices and living quarters. A good source for paintings, drawings, and posters from the Soveit period.


The center of Russian icon-painting in the 17th-18th Palekh village art centuries was the little village of Palekh, near Ivanovo to the East of Moscow. It was saved from extinction in the 19th century by intervention of the Strogonov family. When the Bolshevik revolution swept the country in 1917, the colony managed to survive yet again by painting scenes from Russian folk tales rather than icons. However, the style of the church icons of the period is evident in their work. Sergei Naoumov is also organizing an Electronic Exhibit of Palekh Art.

Russian Posters

From the Funet Russian Archive in Finland--a small collection of Soviet posters from the Revolution to World War II.

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is one of the major art collections in Russia, exhibiting foreign works of arts ranging from ancient times to the present. A. S. PushkinThe money for the creation of the museum came from public donations; the initiative came from a group of Moscow University professors, headed by Prof. Tsvetaev, which established the Museum in 1912. The Museum's premises were built in 1898-1912 on the design of architect Roman Klein.

The Russian Culture Center

This site contains a set of cameo articles on Russian art, architecture, folk sonts, dance, and cuisine (three recipes as of February 1997). Hopefully, this site will continue to grow for the idea is a good one and the site is off to a good start.

The Soros Center for Contemporary Arts St. Petersburg

This is a new center focusing on contemporary artists of Russia. Getting in is a bit tricky; just keep clicking away. It is worth the trip.

The State Tretyakov Gallery

The Tretyakov Gallery dates from 1856, when the purchase of Nikolai Schilder's painting The Temptation laid the foundation for the collecting activities of the Moscow merchant, Tretyakov Gallery--the gallery of exclusively Russian art Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898). The collector's brother, Sergei Tretyakov, was also a connoisseur of art who collected pictures not only by Russian, but also by French and Dutch painters. In 1892 Pavel Tretyakov presented his collection, by that time already famous, to the city of Moscow. Here is another short page on the subject.

Understanding Russian Icons

This article by Lazar Brkic for the Milwaukee Museum's magazine, LORE, provides a nice introduction to Russian icons and insight into understanding them. George Mitrevski has provided the perfect illustration for Brkic's article in his Russian Icon page. The two together are the perfect gateway to an understanding of this ancient and arcane art.

Ukrainian Pysanki

A beautiful collection of Ukrainian painted Easter eggs by Bill Yakowenko, a computer science student at UNC Chapel Hill. The Ukrainian Museum in New York also has some pages on pysanki, including a slide show featuring examples. The Carpatho-Ruthenians have their own style.

Socialist Realism

The Virtual Museum of Political Art presents a five-page exhibit of Soviet socialist realism from the private collection of Patrick Horvath and Prim. Dr. Werner Horvath. The exhibit includes the work of Tikhomenko, Brodsky, Vladimirov, Grigorev and others.

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© 1996 Robert Beard