RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS. ST. PETERSBURG
In 2007, the Russian Academy of Arts celebrates its 250th anniversary. November 17, 1757 (old style – November 6) – The governing senate of the Russian Empire adopted a decree on the creation of the “Academy of the Three Notable Arts”. In fact, such an institution in Russia was conceived much earlier, and by this time it had operated successfully for at least thirty years. The idea of establishing a community of artists was expressed by Peter the Great and his entourage as early as the 1690s. After visiting the first emperor of Paris and the French academies in 1719, this idea acquired a concrete form, but for many cases the necessary decree Peter the Great signed only shortly before his death, on December 22, 1724. He proclaimed the creation of a single “Academy of Sciences and Arts” – a fact today is very important, since the Russian Academy of Arts values that it was born simultaneously with the Russian Academy of Sciences and has been cooperating with it for almost three centuries.
True, it took another quarter of a century to create an exact regulation that determined the role of art in this, as one of the documents of that time said, “the social system of arts and sciences”. The first “Collection of the Academy of Arts” was held in St. Petersburg under the chairmanship of Academician Ludwig Dominik Schumacher on June 8, 1748. This time in the history of academic art can not be underestimated. It covers the whole epoch – from the death of Peter the Great to the last years of the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna, that is, almost the entire period of imperial baroque in Russia – one of the brilliant stages in the development of Russian art. Among the accomplishments of this time, it is enough to mention one thing: from the half-built, half-designed by Peter the Great city, Petersburg arose, with its exquisite regularity and magnificent prospects, artistic features that today serve as the basis for the image of the northern capital of Russia. And this was, to which there is a mass of historical evidence, the result of the joint work of people who consisted in a single Academy, where domestic sciences and arts developed together.
Now we solemnly celebrate the creation of a separate Imperial Academy of Arts, especially its glorious initial “Shuvalov” period of life. The well-established reforms of Peter I allowed the people of the 1750s to create and strengthen the new structure and character of Russian culture, to achieve its recognition in European countries. It is no coincidence that Moscow State University and the Russian Academy of Arts consider as their founder one and the same person, Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov. This is one of those historical events that shaped the fate of the Academy and of which it is proud. From 1757 to 1764, the Academy of Arts was part of Moscow University, although it was decided to place it in St. Petersburg. Cooperation with Moscow State University continues today and has two and a half centuries.
The presidency of I.I. Shuvalov not only extended his favor with the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna to the institutions he headed, but also thanks to his personal contacts the Academy was connected with the primary cultural figures and academic communities of Europe. It is not for nothing that in the first edition of the famous collection of engravings “Vases and Candelabra” by Janbatista Piranesi it is indicated that it was carried out in Rome with the funds of I.Shuvalov. In Paris, a Russian grandee was advised by the most famous architects, and the first among them, Jacques-François Blondel, sent his cousin Jean-Baptiste Michel Wallen-Delamot, one of the authors of the Academy building, to St. Petersburg. In London, I.I. Shuvalov was the first among the Russians to be elected to the oldest of the English academies, the London Society of Antiquities, and his gifts to this society of ancient fragments, acquired by him in Italy, played a role in the formation of the British Museum. Thanks to I. I. Shuvalov, the Academy and together with it the idea of the Russian artistic education established themselves in Europe. The soil arose for the most brilliant of those blossoms that academic art in Russia experienced in different centuries.
Under Catherine the Great, in 1764, a new detailed Statute of the Imperial Academy of Arts was adopted, and Ivan Ivanovich Betskoy, a close empress, became president. The Empress wrote: “For better encouragement and success, We, by accepting this Academy in Our patronage … we define it to be under our sole Imperial knowledge, supplying it with the total required for its content.” In the early period of the reign of Catherine II, a kind of “state utopia” of enlightened Russia arose, and the Academy of Arts had to play an important role in creating the visible image of a transformed empire.
Catherine II described her reign in a letter to her permanent correspondent, the ambassador of the tiny German state of Saxe-Goth in Paris, Baron Melchior Grimm, ironically hinting at one of La Fontaine’s fables and, moreover, the “precedent” indispensable for thinking of an enlightened person of that era ancient history: “… there is no longer a goat, not a cabbage, there is only Pierre, the king of Epirus, which every sculptor must carve.