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Introduction

Art plays an important role in the life of a man and sometimes it is

next to impossible to live without it. It is natural that the first thing

that comes to my mind at the mention of the word art is museums.

A museum is a stock of the worlds masterpieces, it is the place, where

you can enrich knowledge, you can look at the achievements of mankind, you

can satisfy your aesthetic taste. Museums give the possibility to be always

in touch with the past and every time discover something new for yourself.

Besides, museums play an important role in the life of any nation. A museum

is just the right place to find out lots of interesting things about

history, traditions and habits of different peoples. One may find in

museums papers, photos, books, scripts, works of art, personal things of

famous people etc. All this helps us to better understand historical

events, scientific discoveries, character and deeds of well-known

personalities.

I think museums somehow effect the formation of personality, his

outlook. Every educated person is sure to understand the great significance

of museums in our life, especially nowadays, when after the humdrum of

everyday life you may go to your favourite museum, relax there with your

body and soul and acquire inner harmony and balance.

I am a regular museum-goer. In fact I visited no less than 20 museums.

Among them: the Louver, the National Gallery, the Shakespeare House in

Stratford-on Avon, the Oxford story exhibition, Museum of Reading, Madam

Tussauds Exhibition ,the Tretyakov Gallery and others. We can hardly find

a town in our country without its Fine Arts Museum. Ive been in

Voronezh, Kislovodsk, Essentuky and some other regional museums.

Now I want to write about the Tretyakov Gallery, Windsor Castle,

Westminster Abbey, Buckinngham Palace and Hermitage, about their history

and their collections.

The Hermitage

The State Hermitage in St. Petersburg ranks among the worlds most

outstanding art museums. It is the largest museum in Russia: nowadays its

vast and varied collections take up four buildings; its rooms if stretched

in one line would measure many miles in total length, while they cover an

area of 94240 square meters. Over 300 rooms are open to the public and

contain a rich selection from the museums collections numbering about

2500000 items. The earliest exhibits Date from 500000-300000B.C., the

latest are modern works.

The collections possessed by the museum are distributed among its seven

departments and form over forty permanent exhibitions. A common feature,

characterising these exhibitions is the arrangement of items (all of them

originals) according to countries and schools in a strictly chronological

order, with a view to illustrating almost every stage of human culture and

every great art epoch from the prehistoric times to the 20th century.

Fabulous treasures are gathered in the Museum. It contains a rare

collection of specimens of Soythian culture and art; objects of great

aesthetic and historical value found in the burial mounds of the Altai; a

most complete representation of exhibits characterising Russian culture and

art. The Oriental collections of the Museum, ranking among the richest in

the world, give an idea of the culture and art of the people of the Near

and the Far East; India, China, Byzantium and Iran, are best represented;

remarkable materials illustrative of the culture and art of the peoples

inhabiting the Caucasus and Central Asia, also from part of the collections

of the Department. The Museum numbers among its treasures monuments of

ancient Greece and Rome and those from the Greek settlements on the North

coast of the Black Sea.

World famous is the collection of West-European paintings, covering a

span of about seven hundred years, from the 13th to the 20th century, and

comprising works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, El Greco,

Velazquez, Murillo; outstanding paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens; a

remarkable group of French eighteenth century canvases, and Impressionist

and Post Impressionist paintings. The collection illustrates the art of

Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Britain, Sweden, Denmark,

Finland and some other countries. The West European Department of the

Museum also includes a fine collection of European sculpture, containing

works by Michelangelo, Canova, Falkonet, Houdon, Rodin and many other

eminent masters; a marvellous collection of prints and drawings, numbering

about 600 000 items; arms and armour; one of the world most outstanding

collections of applied art, rich in tapestries, furniture, lace, ivories,

porcelain metalwork, bronzes, silver, jewellery and enamels. An important

part among the museum possessions is taken by the numismatic collection,

which numbers over 1 000 000 items and is regarded as one of the largest in

the world. A permanent exhibition of coins, orders and medals is open on

the 2nd floor, rooms 398-400. There are auxiliary displays of coins forming

part of exhibitions in other departments as well. A temporary exhibition of

West-European medals is on view in the Raphael Loggias (1st floor, room

227).

The seven departments of the museum, i.e. the Department of Russian

Culture, Primitive culture, Culture and Art of the peoples of the Soviet

East, Culture and Art of the Foreign Countries of the East, Culture and Art

of the Antique World, West-European Art, Numismatics, together with the

Education Department, the Conservation Department and the Library determine

the administrative and academic structure of the museum.

Within the past few decades the Hermitage has become one of the

countrys most important centres of art study with a research staff of

about 200 historians carrying out a vast program of research on art

problems, and responsible for the preservation of the museum treasures,

their conservation and restoration, and also for the scientific

popularisation of art. The results of this varied work are published in the

form of books, articles, periodicals, pamphlets, etc.

Since 1949 a post-graduate school has been functioning at the

Hermitage, specialists in art working here at their theses.

An important aspect of the Museums research activities is the work of

the annual archaeological expeditions organised by the Museum either

independently or in co-operation with other Soviet scientific

institutions. The most notable among them are: the Kazmir-Blur expedition

making excavations of the city of Taishebaini dating from the 7th century

B.C and situated on the Kazmir-Blur hill near Erevan; the Chersonese and

Nymphaeum expeditions working on the sites of the ancient Greek towns

in the Crimea, the Tadjik, Altai, Pskov and some other expeditions.The

material discovered by them is of exceptional value, for not only does it

throw fresh light on the problems of the history of the art and

culture, but it also serves to enrich the Hermitage collections.

Most helpful in the Museums research work is the Hermitage Library

which contains about 400 000 books, pamphlets, periodicals, and is one

of the largest among the art libraries in Russia. It was started in the

18th century and contains works on all branches of fine and applied arts.

In addition to the Central Library each Department has at its disposal

a subsidiary library of special literature. Of these, the library of the

Hermitage exchanges books with a number of Russian and foreign

museums. It is open to every student of art.

All these are but a few aspects of the varied work carried out by the

Museum and constantly achieving still greater scope and a few forms,

meeting the growing cultural demands of the Russian people.

THE MAKING OF THE COLLECTION

Although visited now by thousands of people the Museum

traditionally retains the old name of the Hermitage attached to it in the

1760s and meaning a hermits dwelling, or a solitary place. The name

is due to the fact that the Hermitage was founded as a palace museum

accessible only to the nearest of the near to the court.

A number of objects of which but a small part was later incorporated in the

museums collections were acquired in different countries by Peter I. These

were antique statues Marine landscapes, land a collection of Siberian

ancient gold buckles. However, the foundation of the Hermitage is usually

dated to the year 1764 when a collection of 225 pictures was bought by

Catherine II from the Prussian merchant Gotzkowsky.

A feature characteristic of the 18th century accusations was the purchase

of large groups of paintings, sometimes of complete galleries, bought

en blok at the sales in Western Europe.Count Bruhls collection

acquired in Dresden in 1769, the Gallery of Crozat, bought in Paris in

1772 and the gallery of Lord Walpole acquired in London in 1779 were

the most prominent among the acquisitions made in the 18th century.

Together with numerous purchases of individual pictures, they supplied

the museum with most outstanding canvases of the European school

,including those by Rembraandt,Rubens,Van Dyck and other eminent

artists, and made the Hermitage rank among the finest art galleries of

Europe. Works , commissioned by the Russian court from European painters

also enriched the Picture gallery.By 1785 the Museum numbered 2658

paintings. Prints and drawings, cameos, coins and medals were likewise

represented at the Hermitage.

The acquisition of complete collections and of individual works of

art was continued in the 19th century but on a more modest scale than

during the previous period. Among the most notable acquisitions of the

19th century were: Mathew Malmaison Gallery of the Empress Josephine

bought in 1814; the collection of the English banker Coesvelt consisting

mainly of Spanish paintings, purchased in Amsterdam the same year; as well

as the paintings from the Barrbarigo Palace inVenice which gave the Museum

its best Titians.

As to the individual works of art, the acquisition in 1865 of

Leonardo da Vinces Madonna Littafromthe Duce of Litta collection and

the purchase of Raphaels Virgin and Child from the Conestebite family

in 1870, were important landmarks in the growth of the treasures of the

Hermitage.

In 1885 the Hermitage received an important collection of objects

of applied art of the 12th 26th centuries, gathered by Basilevsky; ,

together with the Armoury transferred from Tsarskoe Selo, notably

enriched the Museum with a new type of material

The first decade of the 20th century witnessed the acquisition

of a magnificent collection including 730 canvases by the Dutch and

Flemish artists, which had been in the possession of the eminent Russian

scientist Semenov-Tienshansky. Another most important acquisition was

Leonardo da Vincis Madonna and Child purchased in 1914 from the family

of the architect L.Benois.

The Great October Revolution created highly favourable conditions

for the further growth of the Museum collections and their systematic

study. Since October 1917, due to the care taken by Soviet Government for

the preservation of art treasures, the Museum was enriched with a great

number of first-class works of art. Among these were the best pictures

chosen by the Hermitage the nationalised private collections such as

those formerly owned by the Yussupovs, the Shuvalovs, the Stroganovs;

paintings transferred from the imperial palaces; art treasures, acquired

by exchange from other museums within the country.

The policy of planned distribution of art treasures among the

museums carried out by the state, enabled the Hermitage not only to fill

up many gaps and deficiencies by adding to its picture gallery Italian

paintings of the 13th-15th centuries, works of the Netherlandish school,

and of the French school of the 19th and 20th centuries but to form a

museum free from private taste , and made it possible to arrange the

collections systematically. The accumulation of materials which had not

been represented in the museum in the pre-Revolutionary period ,led to the

formation of new departments: the department of the history of culture and

art of the primitive society, of the culture and art of the peoples of the

East, and that of the history of Russian culture.

He immense growth of the collections made it necessary to extend

the exhibition

space This is why the building of the Winter Palace was placed at the

disposal of the Hermitage, the name The State Hermitage being now

applied to the whole great museum thus formed.

BRITISH SCHOOL

The Hermitage is one of the very few on the Continent which contains

a special section for English pictures.

Portraiture, landscape painting and satire art in which England

excelled , are represented by a number of first-class paintings and

prints executed by the most outstanding artists of British School, mainly

of the 18th century. A number of 17th-19th century works are on show too.

There are also some notable specimens of applied art, among which is a fine

group of objects in silver and Wedgwood potteryware . English paintings of

the 17th century are extremely rare outside England.The Hermitage

possesses several works of this period. These are: the Portrait of Oliver

Cromwell by Robert Walker, two portraits by Peter Lely, of which the

Portrait of a Woman reveals the artists sense of colour to great

advantage; also the Portrait of Grinling Gibbons by Godfrey Kneller, to

name only the most outstanding canvases.

The collection has no paintings by William Hogarth, but some of his

prints selected from a large and representative collection possessed by

the Museum are usually on show.

Joshua Reynolds is represented by four canvases all painted in

the 1780-s.

An interesting example of his late work is the Infant Hercules strangling

the Serpents, which is an allegory of the youthful Russia vanquishing her

enemies. The picture was commissioned from Reynolds by Catherine II, and

was brought to Russia

in 1789. In 1891 two other canvases were sent by Reynolds to Russia. One

was the Continence of Scepic Africanus , which , as well as the

Infant Hercules, reveals Reynoldss conception of the grand style in

art. The other was Venus and Cupid; presumably representing Lady

Hamilton .This is one of the versions of the piture entitled The Snake

in the Grass, owned by the National Gallery, London

Reynoldss Girl at a window is a copy with slight modifications,

from Rembrandts canvas bearing the same title, and owned by the Dulwich

Gallery. It may be regarded as an example of Reynoldss study of the old

masters works.

A fair idea of the British artists achievements in the field of

portrait painting can be gained from the canvases by George Romney Thomas

Gainsborough, John Opie, Henry Rdeburn, John Hoppner and John Russell, all

marked by a vividness of expression and brilliance of execution typical of

the British School of portrait painting in the days when it had achieved a

national tradition. Highly important is Gainsboroughs superb Portrait of

the Duchess of Beaufort painted in a loose and most effective manner

characteristic of his art in the late 1770s. For charm of expression and

brilliance of execution, it ranks among the masterpieces of the Museum.The

Tron Forge by Joseph Wright of Derby is an interesting example of a new

subject in English18th century art: the theme of labour and industry, which

merged in the days of the Industrial Revolution.

The few paintings of importance belonging to the British school of the

19th century include a landscape ascribed to John Constable; the Boats at

a shore by Richard Parkers Bonington; the Portrait of an old woman by

David Wilki, three portraits by Thomas Lawrence and portraits by George

Daive, of which the unfinished Portrait of the Admiral Shishkov is the

most impressive.

The collection was largely formed at the beginning of the 20th

century, a great part of it deriving from the Khitrovo collection

bequeathed to the Museum in 1916.

THE TRETYAKOV GALLERY

The Tretyakov Gallery , founded by Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1832-

1989), a Moscow merchant and art patron, is a national treasury of Russian

pre-revolutionary and Russian art.

The Gallerys centenary was widely celebrated throughout Russia in

May 1956. Tretyakov spent his life collecting the works of Russian painters

which reflected the spirit and ideas of all progressive intellectual of

his day. He began his collection in 1856 with the purchase of

Temptation (1856) by N.Shilder and Finnish Smugglers (1853) by

V.Khudyakov. These paintings are on permanent exhibition. In order that

his collection better reflect the centuries-old traditions of Russian art

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