Research

Research is one of the main priorities of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. It was initiated by Ivan Tsvetaev, professor of Moscow University.

From its start, the Museum has had close ties to the Moscow academic community, as it was founded as an educational museum based on the Cabinet of Fine Arts and Antiquities of Moscow University. Its founder Ivan Tsvetaev wanted to represent the main stages of art history in different nations, from the ancient times to the modern era, in plaster casts, models, and painted and electrotype copies according to a single scientific program. Thus, the history of the Museum and the history of the university's art department were so intertwined that the names of the famous founders are recorded in the annals of both the Museum and the university: Ivan Tsvetaev, Vladimir Malmberg, Boris Turaev, Nikolay Romanov, Andrey Guber, Viktor Lazarev, Boris Vipper, and many others. Most of the workers were graduates of the arts department who spent many hours at classes and workshops in the Museum. Many university instructors were also employees of the Museum at various times.

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As casts were the basis of the Museum collection, the founders understood research primarily as educational work. However, shortly before the opening, the Museum acquired a collection of artifacts from Ancient Egypt, which had belonged to Vladimir Golenishchev, as well as a collection of 13th–15th century Italian paintings from Mikhail Schekin and a numismatic collection. Museum researchers focused their efforts on these original items. Since 1912, certain artifacts from the collections have been published. Four issues of “Artifacts of the State Museum of Fine Arts” were prepared in 1912-1913, dedicated to pieces of art of Ancient Egypt from the collection. Their authors were famous scientists, pioneers in the sphere of ancient world art research: Boris Turaev, Vladimir Malmberg, Mikhail Rostovtsev, and Boris Farmakovsky. In subsequent years a number of publications appeared, dedicated to ancient artifacts and prepared by Vladimir Blavatsky, Lev Kharko, and Nina Loseva.

In April 1923 the People's Commissariat for Education made a decision to establish a central museum of old Western painting in Moscow based on the Western European collection of the Moscow Public Museum and the Rumyantsev Museum, which would be located in the building of the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1924 the Museum received paintings from the former collections of Henri Brocard and Dmitry Schukin, as well as items from the State Museum Fund. A significant portion of the paintings came from Leningrad museums. This allowed the team of Museum researchers, headed by its director Professor Nikolay Romanov, to open the first scientific exposition of the picture gallery on November 10, 1924.

Thanks to the reorganization of the Museum in the beginning of the 1920s, the focus of the research work changed and expanded considerably. While researchers shifted their efforts to the fine art of the modern and contemporary eras, new publications appeared that were dedicated to the Museum's painting collections.

One of the new periodic scholarly publications was “Life of the Museum,” established in 1925. The publication “Works of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts,” edited by Viktor Lazarev, has been in publication since 1939. Compared to “Artifacts of the State Museum of Fine Arts” published in the 1910s and the 1920s and dedicated to the art of the ancient world, this publication was a new type of study. In keeping with the expanded range of collections, it had a clear structure and order of themes: “Western European Art,” “Art of the Ancient World,” “Art of the Ancient East.” Therefore, the basis was the priority criterion, which defined the significance and value of Museum holdings that comprised the collections, as well as the spheres of work.

When the State Museum of New Western Art was closed in 1948, the Pushkin Museum received works by French impressionists and post-impressionists from the collections of Ivan Morozov and Sergey Schukin (Moscow), as well as a collection of drawings and an archive, which was reflected in the research work.

After Boris Vipper took the position of deputy director for research in 1944, the focus shifted from publishing individual works of art to creating full catalogues (catalogue raisonné) of specific collections. The systematization and publication of Museum holdings continues to this day.

At the same time, the Museum has always been open to a wide variety of contacts in the sphere of research. Since the beginning of the 1960s, the initiatives of Museum director Irina Antonova have helped to significantly expand the scientific, creative, and partnership links of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Exhibitions have become quite multi-faceted and are now arranged according to research topic. While developing concepts of exhibitions, curators usually aim to highlight certain topics in art history, so exhibition catalogues often resemble monographic studies.

While expanding its scientific partnerships, the Museum is actively collaborating with the Department of Theory and History of Art of Moscow University, the All-Union Research Institute of Arts, the Academy of Arts, and the Academy of Sciences. Collaborative academic conferences are held in the Museum, and different themed art journals are prepared.

Since 1968 the Museum has regularly held “Vipper Readings.” The event quickly gained immense authority among art historians. At the same time, Museum workers lead an annual Reporting Research Session, where they discuss the most important aspects of research, storage, and restoration work accomplished during the previous year.

In 1985 famous collector and art historian Ilya Zilberstein and director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts Irina Antonova established the Museum of Private Collections as a research department. It was officially opened in 1994. The holdings of the Museum of Private Collections are comprised of works of art given by private collectors.

One of the Museum's most important research areas is the study of the history of collecting in Russia. In this sphere numerous exhibitions are held and many scientific catalogues are published, the most important of which are the studies of the collections of Ilya Zilberstein, the Golitsyn family, Henri Brocard, and Pavel Ettinger. The fundamental publication “Era of the Rumyantsev Museum,” dedicated to the establishment of museum development in the country, was issued in connection with the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Pushkin Museum.

In 2006 the first “Zilberstein Readings” conference, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Ilya Zilberstein, took place. In 2009 the readings were held again — this time in recognition of the 175th anniversary of Sergey Tretyakov's birth. The main topic discussed at the conferences is collecting in Russia and abroad. The range of issues is very wide; they concern historical, archival, attributional, and legal aspects.

In addition to the regular academic sessions mentioned, the Museum holds conferences dedicated to exhibition-related, archaeological, and educational work, as well as conferences on specific art history matters.
Since 1927 the Museum has organized regular archaeological expeditions, which are some of the most important areas of the research work at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The first excavations were done by museum workers Vladimir Blavatsky, Nina Loseva, Maria Kobylina, and Lev Kharko. They took part in an expedition of the State Academy of the History of Material Culture (now the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences). The group studied ancient villages of the Taman Peninsula, including Phanagoria — the biggest city of the Asian Bosporus. In 1944 a special Department of Archaeological Excavations and Expeditions was established, which was headed by Vladimir Blavatsky until 1947. The main task of the new department was to study the most important ancient cities on the northern shores of the Black Sea: Panticapaeum (modern-day Kerch) and Phanagoria, as well as Scythian Neapolis near Simferopol. In the summer of 1945 a joint expedition of the Museum and the Institute for History of Material Culture set out for Kerch. From 1958 to this day, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has continued this work independently: at first, under the guidance of Ivan Marchenko (1959–1976), and later (since 1977) headed by Vladimir Tolstikov. In 1946 another expedition of the Museum, led by Pavel Shults and lasting for five years, studied the rich mausoleum of Scythian Neapolis.

In addition to archaeological work in Crimea and the Taman Peninsula, for twenty years (1951-1970) researchers from the Department of the Ancient East took an active part in the excavation of the Urartian fortress Erebuni on Arin Berd hill in Yerevan. The expedition was held jointly with the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR and the Department for Artifact Conservation of the State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR for Construction. Konstantin Oganesyan took the role of the project leader, while Boris Piotrovsky was the scientific advisor. Until 1959, Nina Loseva was the expedition manager, and later Svetlana Khodzhash took her place.

Thus, the Museum has been doing archaeological research for more than 80 years now. It has resulted in numerous publications and academic conferences, as well as the discovery of many works of ancient and antique art: sculptures, ceramics, coins, works of applied arts, and artifacts of culture and daily life of ancient peoples, which supplemented the Museum holdings and were included in the main exposition.

The Museum also works extensively in the area of educational projects. Special attention is paid to the relationship between the Museum and young visitors. Given that it was founded by Ivan Tsvetaev for the purpose of education, guided tours, lectures, and awareness-raising activities are of particular importance. The Mouseion Children's Educational Center opened in 2005, which demonstrates how fundamental the popularization of science is for the Museum in terms of methodology.

The Center offers many classes and workshops, where researchers teach the history of art from all around the world based on the Museum's exhibits, and experienced artists help children master different techniques of fine arts. Moreover, the Center has educational programs for different age groups, as well as for children with disabilities.
The Museum prepares and publishes many books, albums, and brochures for children. These publications are issued in series according to their topic and help children of all ages learn more about the history, types, genres, materials, and techniques of fine arts.

In 1996 a new department was established in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts — the Ivan Tsvetaev Educational Art Museum, which is located at the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) on Chayanova Street. It opened its doors on May 30, 1997. It displays plaster casts that were not included in the main Museum exposition or their duplicates. The Ivan Tsvetaev Educational Art Museum continues the educational work, which was originally intended for the Museum on Volkhonka Street. Therefore, the concept of an “educational museum for schoolchildren and university students,” which originated with Ivan Tsvetaev, was finally implemented in a new way.

The Department of Manuscripts keeps documentation on the history of the Museum and the scientific and epistolary heritage of Ivan Tsvetaev, as well as other museum workers, famous art historians and artists, and archives of other museums that could be seen at the Pushkin Museum at different points in time. In recent years intensive research work has been going on in the archive. The Museum has published and is preparing to publish voluminous letters between Ivan Tsvetaev and Greg Treu, as well as Yury Nechaev-Maltsov.

The Museum owns an extensive scholarly library, which opened in the summer of 1912. The core of the library was the collection of books of the Cabinet of Fine Arts and Antiquities of the Moscow University History and Philology Department. It was supplemented in conformity with the development of art academia and the university course. The library contained various publications on fine art, including photographs and transparencies, as well as magazines dedicated to contemporary challenges of art academia; some of them are still collected by the Museum library. The holdings were also supplemented by the private collections of Museum workers. The library currently owns almost 200,000 books and magazines and continues to acquire both Russian and foreign publications.

Prior to the 100th anniversary of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in 2012, the scholarly work at the Museum became even more intensive: many catalogues raisonnés, monographs, and studies were published with detailed critical apparatus. At the same time as the expansion of exposition space, Museum employees developed scientific expositions for the collections that would be displayed in the newly opened museum areas, which will help to present the rich collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in a new way.

Pieces at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts displaced to the USSR from Germany after the Second World War

In 1945 the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts received a number of pieces from museums in Germany, which were brought to the USSR as a partial reimbursement of the irreparable damage caused by the war. Against the background of chaos and anarchy, the Soviet Army's removal of cultural and artistic valuables from defeated fascist Germany and their transfer to state repositories for safeguarding undoubtedly helped to protect those valuables from destruction and pillage. The Soviet Union has returned many German valuables to the GDR since 1949. The final “Protocol of transfer of cultural valuables rescued by the Soviet Army between the Governments of the USSR and the GDR” dated July 29, 1960, documented 1,571,995 items and 121 boxes of books, archive recordings, and sheet music, as well as over 3,000,000 archive files. In particular, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts returned 354,271 pieces of art to the GDR.
The handling of displaced valuables is currently regulated by the Government of the Russian Federation on the basis of Federal Law No.64-FZ of April 15, 1998, “On Cultural Valuables Displaced to the USSR as a Result of the Second World War and Located on the Territory of the Russian Federation” (with amendments and additions).
The Pushkin Museum, fully aware of the complexity and importance of all aspects concerning displaced valuables in general and specific objects stored in the Pushkin Museum, has endeavored to protect, study, attribute, and restore those pieces throughout the post-war period.

The extensive restoration work aimed at rescuing pieces of art from the Dresden Gallery started in the spring of 1945 and ended in 1955 with the exhibition “Masterpieces of the Dresden Gallery,” which was visited by 1,200,000 people. The exhibition was widely and comprehensively reported in both specialized and popular publications, and the exhibited pieces of art were subsequently returned to the GDR. Some items from the Dresden Gallery and other German museums where the valuables were returned were later presented many times at other exhibitions of the Pushkin Museum:
1958 — Works of Art from the GDR. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, and objects of applied art.
1975 — Treasures of the Dresden Gallery.
1984 — Rescued Masterpieces of the Dresden Picture Gallery and the Grünes Gewölbe Treasure Chamber.
2006 — Antonello da Messina (1430-1479). “St. Sebastian” from the collection of the Dresden Picture Gallery.
2009 — Dresden — Moscow. Keeping the Tradition: Masterpieces of the Dresden Picture Gallery in the Pushkin Museum. Single-picture exhibition. Andrea Mantegna. Holy Family. 1495–1500.
2015 — Nicolas Poussin, “The Empire of Flora.” In honor of the 60th anniversary of the exhibition of paintings from the Dresden Gallery in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.
The results of the research and restoration work carried out by employees of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and related to displaced valuables were also presented to the public at the following exhibitions:
1985 - The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts during the Great Patriotic War. The Dresden Gallery in Moscow. Based on the Museum's archives.
1995 — For the 50th anniversary of the Victory over Nazi Germany: “Rescued Twice.” European paintings from the 14th–19th centuries displaced to the USSR from Germany after the Second World War.
1995 — Documents Reveal... For the 50th anniversary of the Great Victory. 1941-1958.
1995 — Five Centuries of European Drawing. Drawings of old masters from the former collection of Franz Koenigs.
1996 — Treasures of Troy. From excavations of Heinrich Schliemann.
2005 — Archaeology of War. Return from Non-existence. Restoration of antique pieces displaced after the Great Patriotic War.
2007 — Era of the Merovingians — Europe without Borders.
2014 — Art of Ancient Cyprus from the collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.
2014 — From Renaissance to Baroque. Italian Paintings from the Pushkin Museum Collection.
2015 — For the 70th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War. Custodians. War and Peace in the Museum. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in 1941-1955.

The scholarly interpretation of the heritage from the so-called special fund is reflected in exhibition catalogues; recently, the two-volume publication “Art of Ancient Cyprus from the Collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts” (2014, by a research team headed by Doctor of Arts Lyudmila Akimova) and the catalogue raisonné “From Renaissance to Baroque. Italian Paintings from the Pushkin Museum Collection” (2014, by Doctor of Arts Victoria Markova) resonated widely.

The Pushkin Museum is open to scholarly dialogue with its partners. Together with other Russian museums, its employees are taking part in the preparation of the Russian-German exhibition project “Iron Age: Europe without Borders.” It continues the efforts that started with the participation of the Pushkin Museum in a similar Russian-German project, “Bronze Age: Europe without Borders,” which took place in 2013–2014 in the State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg) and the State Historical Museum (Moscow).

In 2015 the Pushkin Museum experts started to research and restore sculptures from the Bode Museum (Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum) of Berlin and prepare them for exposition as part of long-term cooperation and contact with German researchers. These are works by Donatello, Niccolo and Giovanni Pisano, Tino di Camaino, Andrea del Verrocchio, Luca della Robbia, Mino da Fiesole, and other sculptors. The result of this partnership will be presented at a major final exhibition, which will eventually be included in the renewed permanent exposition of the Pushkin Museum.

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