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In: Experiment

Abstract

In 1862, the collector Pavel Tretyakov made his second visit to Britain, and lent three paintings to the International Exhibition held in London that year. Then aged just thirty, he had bought his first Russian paintings just six years previously, yet his collection was already of sufficient calibre for the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg to desire works from it for the Russian submission to the London event. Moreover, the genre paintings which Tretyakov lent added spice to what was otherwise a rather routine academic display. In this respect, Tretyakov’s contribution to the 1862 exhibition could be seen to foretell his later patronage of the Peredvizhniki, who similarly unsettled the academic status quo.

Yet one small but telling fact disrupts this narrative of a collector who championed the innovative and the marginalized. Tretyakov had in fact suggested lending to the exhibition paintings by Vladimir Borovikovsky, Fedor Bruni, Karl Briullov and Vasily Khudiakov, all of whom were established members of the academic firmament. But his proposal was overruled and replaced by the alternative selection of genre paintings put forward by Fedor Iordan, a stalwart of the Academy. Far from confirming an image of Tretyakov as a nonconformist whose pioneering vision shook up the practices of the establishment, the case of the 1862 exhibition thus sees the binary which has often been drawn between this ground-breaking collector and the hidebound conservatism of the Academy significantly reversed.

In: Experiment