St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts Museum

Originally, the Imperial Academy of Arts was opened by Count Ivan Shuvalov in 1757, with the name Academy of Three Noblest Arts. Informally it is still known as the St Peterburg Academy of Arts. Count Shuvalov had opened the academy in his own house, at Sadovaya Street, and in 1764, Catherine the Great commissioned a rector to be responsible for constructing a new building for the academy, and renamed it the Imperial Academy of Arts. The first rector that was commissioned was Alexander Kokorinov. Kokorinov enlisted the assistance of Konstantin Thon to design and decorate the interiors of the new building. The construction of the neoclassical building took twenty five years, and faces the Winter Palace that is situated on the Neva River bank. Konstantin Thon adorned the quayside that he designed in front of the edifice, with sphinxes and griffins that he had brought back from Egypt. The sphinxes and griffins were aged at three thousand years old.

The academy was transformed into a de-facto government department by Ivan Betskoy, and the academy was soon regulating art within Russia and was entrusted to awarding ranks to various artists. Neoclassicism was promoted by many Russian artists being sent abroad to learn the ancient art of Renaissance that was used in France and in Italy. The academy’s collection extended to a massive amount of artwork that was to be utilized for studying. The Academism of the training staff occurred during the mid 19th century. This was due to the influence of the Ingres doctrines that was challenged by the younger, new generation of Russian artists. This generation wanted to assert freedom to paint more realistic subjects and choice of artwork. Ivan Kramskoi was the leader of the new generation, who’s movement was named Peredvizhniki. Kramskoi publicly broke ties with the academy and moved across Russia, hosting his own exhibitions. Many painters, including Mikhail Vrubel and Ilya Repin, regarded the Academy as a necessary stepping stone to develop and teach rising artists the basic skills to become professionals in their trade.

The Russian Revolution took place in 1917, after which the Imperial Academy of Arts was subjected to many changes. It was renamed the Russian Academy of Arts in 1933, changed to the Academy of Arts of the USSR in 1947, and in 1991 it was renamed back to the Russian Academy of Arts. Since 1947 however, the Russian Academy of Arts moved its headquarters to Moscow, and the breathtaking building that still graces the Neva River bank, is now home to the University which is named the Ilya Repin Saint Petersburg Academic Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. No matter how many times the Academy changes its name it will always remain the St Petersburg Academy of Arts, to the locals.

Many fine works of art are still located within the building, which is known as the Academy of Fine Arts Museum. Although it does not host the widest variety of paintings, many priceless pieces are on display in the Academy of Fine Arts Museum, such as paintings by the famous Ilya Repin. Between the artistic education received here and the beauty of the Academy of Fine Arts Museum building, there is enough to convince any traveler to visit this historical site.


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