Visiting the Russian Museum
07 July, 2017
The Russian Museum is an excellent introduction to Russian history and culture. The museum was established by Nicholas ll who assigned Mikhailovsky Palace to become the ‘Russian Museum of Emperor Alexander lll’. Its collection consists of works from the Hermitage, Alexander Palace, the Imperial Academy of Arts and many private collections which were nationalised after the revolution in 1917.
As I’m finding to be characteristic here, the entrance is inconspicuously off to the side. You go in, buy your ticket (450 rubles for adults, 200 for students) then make your way down a low hall to hang up your coat and bag. Once you’re in the main entrance, the entire space opens up to a grand foyer
The most impressive part I have to say was the ceiling, which was a display in itself.
This room consists of portraits of political figures and a large, wall to wall painting of the Ceremonial Meeting of the State Council on May 7, 1901, by Ilya Repin. This painting took three years to complete and depicts the 100th anniversary of Alexander the 1st Indispensable Council. This painting was originally on display in the Mariinsky Palace before being seized during 1917 and placed in the Museum of the Revolution. In 1938, it was transferred to the Russian Museum. There are individual portraits all around the room of each figure in this painting. Apart from one, though the guide didn’t say why. It looks bright in the picture but the rooms are kept quite dark to protect the paintings. The only light in most halls and rooms is daylight filtered through curtains.
The next wing we visited was of Old and early to mid 19th-century art. The Russian Museum has one of the largest collections of the early Russian Avante Garde. It is highly reflective of artistic schools that existed during Soviet times known for socialist realism. This painting is a prime example of the ‘grand severity’ and an imaginable plotline that permeated this period.
The Department of Contemporary Art was established in the 1980s to collect unconventional, new art, including installations, photography and other non-traditional media. The collection had a direct impact on exhibition activity, which likely influenced the art itself of this era. Art, as a rule, was procured directly from exhibitions from other museums, which validated the status of the work. I remember this section being brighter with white walls to suit the more modern, abstract style of it all. This section includes such famous works as Winter City Landscape by Ilya Mashkov, by Leonid Sokov and Artist’s Model and Resturant by Nadezhda Udaltsova.
The Russian Museum has an archaeological aspect to it as well, to preserve and display Russian culture. My friend who was with me remarked ‘I see so many of these things at my Grandparents house all the time – they’re just everyday objects. It’s so funny seeing them in a museum’. As we walked further through this wing of pottery, household objects of peasant life, folk clothes, I supposed that was the point of preserving these things – to reflect every day and iconic aspects of Russian culture.
The Russian Museum is on Инженерная ул., 4, Санкт-Петербург, 191186, through Mihilovsky Square, right by Liden @ Denz. Opening hours are 10 am to 6 pm, 10 am to 8 pm on Mondays and 1 pm to 9 pm on Thursday. I’d highly recommend a visit while you’re here.