The greatest Russian philanthropist and creator of the famous gallery
Pavel Tretyakov was the eldest of twelve children of a hereditary merchant of the III guild, whose ancestors moved to the capital from Maloyaroslavets in 1774. The father of the future philanthropist owned five shops in Gostiny Dvor and two factories paper-dyeing and finishing.
Having received the traditional home education for merchant children of that time, Pavel from a young age helped his father in trade. But already in 1848, a disaster struck in the Tretyakov family four children died from the scarlet fever epidemic. These tragic events had an extremely negative impact on the health of the head of the family, who died two years later.
At less than 18 years old, Pavel Tretyakov had to take over the management of the family business. Together with his younger brother Sergey, the young man with great enthusiasm began to develop his father’s business and achieved impressive success in this field. Subsequently, he became one of the largest Russian entrepreneurs, whose fortune was measured in millions of rubles, and the number of hired workers was estimated at tens of thousands of people.
In 1852 Pavel Tretyakov made a trip to St. Petersburg.
Here he visited the famous Hermitage, visited the Academy of Arts and had the opportunity to see many paintings by the great masters of painting. Returning to Moscow, the young man firmly decided to collect his own collection of objects of Russian fine art and was actively engaged in the realization of a noble goal.
The first documented acquisitions in the Tretyakov collection were paintings “Temptation” by Nikolai Schilder and “Clash with Finnish smugglers” by Vasily Khudyakov. But that was only the beginning. Earning a lot of money, the patron spent annually on the purchase of works of art from several thousand to several hundred thousand rubles. He acquired dozens of works from many authors, found old paintings in antiques shops, and carried on a lively correspondence with artists.
Pavel Tretyakov annually made commercial trips to European countries, where he regularly visited museums and exhibitions, got acquainted with the work of the world’s best artists. But in his heart he always remained a real patriot and collected exclusively the works of Russian masters.
In 1865, the philanthropist married the cousin of Savva Mamontov Vera Nikolaevna.
In this marriage, he had four daughters and two sons. Unfortunately for the parents, the eldest son was born mentally retarded, and the youngest died at the age of nine from complications caused by the scarlet fever epidemic.
Pavel Tretyakov has allocated significant funds for charitable purposes for many years. He built and financed the work of a medical clinic for seriously ill patients, was a trustee of a school for deaf and dumb children and one of the sponsors of Miklouho-Maclay’s scientific trip to Oceania. For services to the Fatherland, the Russian emperor wanted to give Tretyakov the hereditary title of nobility, but the patron refused this honor, expressing his desire to remain a hereditary merchant.
In 1892, after the death of his brother Sergei, Pavel Tretyakov transferred the gallery building and all the collected works to his hometown. In commemoration of the merits of the great businessman, the authorities of the capital awarded him the title of “Honorary Resident of Moscow”.
The last years of the artist’s life
Until the end of his days, Pavel Tretyakov collected paintings by Russian artists, expanded the museum and allocated funds for its maintenance. He became a member of the Russian Academy of Arts and received the honorary rank of commercial advisor, continued to develop the family business and benefit the community. But on December 4, 1898, 11 days before his 66th birthday, after a long illness, Pavel Tretyakov departed for eternity. The body of the great collector was interred in the Danilovskoye cemetery in Moscow, in the family tomb. But 50 years later, his ashes were reburied at the Novodevichy Memorial Cemetery, where he rests in peace today.