Our train from Veliky Novgorod arrived at 5am in the Leningradsky Vokzal (Vokzal is station in Russian). We decided to take our time before waking up our hosts and discover a very nice flat in a pleasant neighborhood located south of Kremlin. Cadu had already been in Moscow in 2008 but he accepted with the motivation to visit some places again, so we left home, direction the State Tretiakov Gallery. To arrive there we did a 15 minutes walk through the streets of Zamoskvorechye district and its wooden houses (it tent to be a very cool area in the next few years). Once at Tretiakov we strolled around its innumerous exhibition halls. At the end of the visit we were exhausted: Russian history art is not familiar to us, we did our best to link everything with what we saw in Saint Petersburg but names and paintings still mix in our brain.
What is better than keep walk until the Red Square to take some fresh air? Seeing something for the first time has always a great impact on us. But there are places more than others that leave one impression that will be in the memory forever. Arriving in the Red Square together is one of these places. No matter how busy it was, no matter how ugly huge stage in construction on the middle of the square was, we were there and it was great! It’s certainly not the most beautiful square in the word, the church neither, but it’s the symbol of a whole country and so many moments on its history. When someone thinks about Red Square thinks also about the Kremlin. But without the GUM, the biggest department store of Russia, the square would not be complete. This elegant and luxurious building has its charm but, even with its history, the interior is aseptic as another fancy mall… We definitely preferred the GUM building from the outside!
The second day of our stay was entirely consecrated to art and architecture. We heard about a splendid Art Nouveau building in Moscow and, after browsing a little bit, we discovered Ryabushinsky’s House which is now the Gorky’s House-Museum in the north part of Arbat district.
Sometimes a two hours visit teaches more than you expected. Maxim Gorky is known to be the founder of the socialist realism literary method. First for healthy problems and then for his critics to Lenin he was twice in a kind of exile in Italy. First time was from 1906 to 1913 and second from 1921 and 1928. Probably motivated by material need, in 1929 he decided to go back to Russia where he became closer to the communist party. He spent the rest of his life in the house built for the Ryabushinsky’s family.
The house is far from the touristic circuits and that reflects on its abandoned appearance but it remains a fantastic example of Art Nouveau. The rich Ryabushinsky’s called Fyodor Shekhtel, the best architect of that time to build the house designated to impress the high society of Moscow. The construction was achieved in 1900 and the family did not have a lot of time before the revolution to enjoy the place.
The most impressive is the marble staircase with its wavy shape, but there are plenty of details to observe: the snails and the undersea on the ceiling, the flowers on the door frames, the floor’s parquetry… Wandering around is like a game to discover the natural shapes suggested by the curved lines. Cadu took some photos, hope they can give an idea of the atmosphere (…and the dust!) we breathed there!
We planned to visit the house and studio of the architect and painter Konstantin Melnikov which is 30 minutes walking far from Gorky’s Museum. Melnikov is one of the leaders of the avant-garde movement in Russia and that’s the house he constructed in 1929 for his family lived until 1974, year of his death. It’s an extraordinary example of Russian constructivist architecture and it was a pity we couldn’t visit because it was closed and abandoned! We could only admire the façade and take some pictures from the outside. Check more about this house here
We hope it get some works soon to be open to the public.
With some more time free we decided not to give up and to go to the New Gallery, a second building opened in 1985 by the Tretiakov Gallery. It’s dedicated to modern and contemporary Russian art. We were interested in the Avant-garde period (before the Russian revolution) when some artists began to “think different” and developed new ways of expression. The emblematic figures of this period are Gontcharova, Malevich, Kandinsky, Chagal, Filonov and Popova. After 1917 and specially when Stalin got in charge of the country, all kind of self expression was controlled and censured by the government, the result is evident: the return of a classical way of painting with subjects that show ideals of the communism and exalted the figures of Lenin and Stalin. We almost skipped this part of the museum but at the end we could find some really good paintings that worth the visit… Russian artistic scene took 20 years after the end of the Soviet Era to recover the gap left and to produce something really original and with free expression. However we were too tired to really enjoy this part.