New Tretyakov Gallery – home to the Russian avant-garde

The younger sibling of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery takes its visitors back to the USSR and beyond, gathering a whole century of Russian art under one roof.

Located on Krymsky Val, not far from the Kremlin, it is a branch of the celebrated Tretyakov Gallery. While the original gallery houses Russian art from its earliest days to the late 19th century, this one, often referred to as the New Tretyakov, takes us into the modern era, from the 1900s to now.

As you might expect, there are plenty of paintings of Soviet workers and portraits of Stalin, but there is a lot more besides. The collection is arranged chronologically, starting with the pre-revolutionary years.

At the time, many artists found their inspiration in Russian folk culture – like Natalya Goncharova. Her embroidery-style “Peacock” drew on images from traditional Russian crafts. But things were about to change very drastically.

The decades that followed saw radical artistic theories and daring experiments. In 1915, Kasimir Malevich painted his era-defining “Black Square”, influencing a whole generation of other artists. The venue also hosts the huge, carnival-like “Venice”, created in 1918 by Aleksandra Exter who was nicknamed “the Queen of Cubism”. The canvasses by Lubov Popova offer an even more bold combination of lines and blocks of color.

In fact, the 20th century saw a large number of exceptional Soviet women artists, painting in a variety of styles, and women themselves started to be portrayed in a whole new way.

It was all about female liberation and empowerment, as well as happy scenes of Soviet life, like the “Construction of New Workshops” painted in 1926 by Aleksandr Deineka. Yury Pimenov’s “A New Moscow” is another iconic image of Soviet womanhood.

Not to be missed either are the sculptures of Vera Mukhina, a leading figure of Socialist realism. You can see a model of her “Worker and Collective Farm Girl”, which topped the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris, and now stands in northern Moscow.

Other floors house perestroika-era art – and with so much on display you will probably have to come back for more. A day may not be enough, after all, to see a whole century of art.

Leave a comment