The Kiev National Museum of Russian Art

The Kiev National Museum of Russian Art is located in the heart of the city, opposite the main building of the Taras Shevchenko National University. The building which houses the more than 12,000 piece collection used to belong to prominent industrialist and patron of the arts, Fedir Tereshchenko (1832-1894), who donated much of his collection for public display. Tereshchenko started collecting works of art in the early 1870s, some chosen because they appealed to him personally and others at the recommendation of well-respected art connoisseurs, historians and critics, with the result being a wide representation of Russian art in its many forms.

Tereshchenko bought the house in Kiev in 1880 to accommodate his family and his growing art collection, and today the house retains its homely atmosphere while displaying the artworks to their best advantage. In addition to the room reserved as a gallery, there were reportedly paintings hanging on the walls throughout the house when the family were living there. He would allow members of the public to view the gallery at certain times, which they could access through its separate entrance. As there is no catalogue detailing the items from Tereshchenko’s private collection there is no way of knowing how extensive it may have been. At least 21 paintings in the museum have been identified as belonging to him, but there were likely many more.

Tereshchenko was also known as a philanthropist, and following his death in 1894, his wife Nadezhda continued his work. During the turbulent time in Ukraine, and more specifically Kiev’s, history from 1917 on, the Tereshchenkos left Kiev, and the house was used by various ruling authorities over the years. When the Soviet Socialist Republic was established in 1922, Ukraine became a constituent. Having survived the wars and revolutions, the Tereshchenko house was reestablished as an art center named the Picture Gallery of Kyiv, with the family’s art collection extended by pieces from private collections which had been nationalized by the Soviet authorities, including works by outstanding 19th century Russian artists. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, they occupied Kiev, and works that had not been evacuated ahead of the invasion, were confiscated and taken to Germany. Fortunately, the building remained intact and following the war, the majority of the artworks were returned.

Today, visitors to the Kiev National Museum of Russian Art can enjoy the variety of artworks in the collection, with temporary exhibits featuring specific artists and themes taking place regularly. Prized items in the museum include works by the group of Russian artists referred to as Peredvizhniki – The Wanderers – who protested at academic restrictions imposed by ruling authorities and formed an artists’ cooperative in the late 1800s which evolved into the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions aimed at bringing art to the people.