In 1856, the same year as the foundation of the National Portrait Gallery in London, a young textile industrialist called Pavel Tretyakov began to collect Russian art. A quiet but resolute man, Tretyakov dedicated vast resources to the development of his collection over the next four decades. Tretyakov envisaged a national portrait collection within his gallery to celebrate prominent figures in public, intellectual and cultural life and commissioned Russia’s leading painters to portray them. By the time he donated it to the city of Moscow in 1892 it was valued at nearly 1.5 million roubles and comprised almost two thousand works of art. It now forms the core of the State Tretyakov Gallery, Russia’s national gallery in Moscow and the greatest collection of Russian art in the world.

Pavel Tretyakov by Ilia Repin, 1901
© State Tretyakov Gallery