Over the past three decades Russia have had steady interest to the photography as a full and active participant of the artistic process, a subject worthy of collecting, studying, exhibiting and subjecting to aesthetic critique. The Russian Museum has a representative collection based on historical and contemporary works of photography. One of the collections where such items are held is the Images Archive which has existed as a museum department under different names since 1922, but whose collection activity started with a resolution of the first meeting of the Council of the Russian Museum on July 4, 1897: to publish catalogues with photos of all museum exhibits and to photograph all the incoming works and those already in the museum holdings. Since then, the main sources for acquisitions were not only items made in the museum’s photolaboratory, but those transferred from its other departments, as well as from the State Hermitage Museum, the Academy of Arts, the Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, palaces and other collections and archives. Now the collection has various material reflecting wide range of themes and is constantly expanding thanks to donors and participants of museum exhibitions of photography.
The photographic exhibits give opportunity to trace the evolution of this art form from the daguerreotype to the modern technologies of creating photographic images, and also give an idea of basic and specific genres of photography and of the creative work of Russian and foreign masters of the middle of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twenty first centuries, including S. Levitsky, M. Nastyukov, D. Karelin, F. Nicholaevsky, I. Barshevsky, G. Steinberg, K. Fisher, F. Nadar, A. Dizderi, Alinari brothers, G. Incorpora, P. Salviati, B. Smelov, M. Snigirevskaya and A. Kitaev. Original prints are presented in different formats not only as independent works and series (approx. 22000 pieces), but also in the form of 200 albums (including some donated directly by the imperial house); comprising city views and views of separate buildings, landscapes (“The Kamennoostrovsky Palace”, filmed in 1905, by the head of the museum photographic laboratory I. Alexandrov), reportages (A. Felix “Prayer Ceremony at the Monument of Emperor Peter the Great, May 30, 1872), ethnographic works (J. Leuzinger “Samoyeds”. 1894), technical photos (“The Railway Bridge. Kiev ” from the “Album photographique de Kiev” by F. de Mezer. 1874), monuments (“M. Kutuzov” from the album by A. Lawrence “Views of St. Petersburg. 1860s), exhibitions, pictorial art, items of decorative and applied arts, large and small plastic art, sculptural and architectural projects and interiors. Also, the album of “The Society of Russian Watercolorists.
The single-figure and group portraits of famous personalities have special historical, artistic and iconographic value: “I. Repin” (1914), executed in mixed technique by the master of pictorialism M. Sherling on the occasion of the famous artist’s seventieth birthday, “A Group Portrait. Yasnaya Polyana”, made in 1900 by the wife of the famous writer, amateur photographer S.A. Tolstaya, and the unparalleled “visiting card” of A. Eikchoff “The Most August Family of the Russian Imperial House” (1868) from the album “Visiting Portraiture” of the gallery of the St. Petersburg professor N. Baksheyev (about 1480 images, including the series “Historic exhibition of portraits of persons of the
An important part of the photography collection department, in addition to the film samples (about 107600 pieces) are the glass negatives of various formats of the 1860s −1930s (about 37000 pieces), including some created by A. Erzhemsky, K. Kubesh, I. Alexandrov and A. Lushev, 2405 collodian negatives which were acquired in 1912; photos of old portraits for the catalogue of the abovementioned exhibitions and to a lesser extent, scenes in a natural setting (“The Family of A. Lushev in their Garden.” 1860s).
Along with the negatives and positives the collection also comprises various printed material (about 50000 items), created from the originals of artists and photographers of the middle of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries: “open letters”, bookplates, menus, woodprints, posters, reproductions and so on. Many of them were acquired by the museum in the first decades of its existence and fulfilled the positive and negative collection in narrative, subject or technological terms (they include the collections of E. Reutern, I. Tyumenev and V. Mashukov).
Since the mid-1990s the works of the department have been constantly featured in exhibitions and publications of the Russian Museum: “St. Petersburg and its Surroundings through the Eyes of Art Photographers” (1996), "The First Photobiennal of Historical and Archival photographs from Museums, Archives and Libraries (2011),"Invitation to Dinner" (2013), “Tourist Pictures of Italian Photographers of the 19th Century from the Collection of the Russian Museum”, “Movie Posters from the Collection of the Russian Museum”, “The First World War.
Renz and Schrader Photographic Atelier. Lev Dmitriev-Kavkazskii.
1904-1906. Brom-silver print.
Unknown photographer. Cottage of Prince Georgii Romanovsky, 6th Duke of Leuchtenbergю Old Peterhof.
May 28 1911. Collotype.
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Virtual tour of the museum complex. 2009 (Rus., Eng., Ger., Fin.)
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