Flax linen and the Tretyakov gallery connection?

The Tretyakov brothers: how it all began

On December the15th, 1832, the beautiful and smart Alexandra Borisova gave birth to Mikhail Tretyakov’s firstborn, who was given name Pavel. The second son, Sergei Tretyakov, was born soon after his big brother - in one year, one month and four days. The brothers became the main assistants in the family business. They did not study at any university, but ever since childhood they’ve learned the basics of merchant business: they cleaned up the shop and helped with account management. And both reached to the beautiful. Sergei was mainly into literature, while Pavel spent every extra penny on buying cheap popular prints - lubok, which were sold next to their shop, on Nikolsky market in Moscow.

Linen Manufacture and the Success Story

The father of the Tretyakov brothers, Mikhail merchant, was a notable for keeping the family business going - mainly selling buttons and linen. In 1859, family company was transferred to brothers Pavel and Sergei. To their credit, it should be said that they did not argue over their father’s inheritance, but on the contrary, they lived in perfect harmony until the very end of their days and managed the affairs of the company together.

And in 1866, the Tretyakov brothers’ main industrial enterprise in Kostroma region of Russia began its work, the basis of their future financial power - the “Partnership of the Big Kostroma Linen Manufacture”. The factory, where 748 people worked on 4809 spindles, eventually evolved into the world's largest enterprise for flax processing. By the end of the century, it gave as much linen as has been produced in all of the Western Europe. The Tretyakovs got rich. And precisely because of flax, Pavel was able to buy Russian paintings for his collection.

How did the famous artwork gallery appear?

Being the most active of Moscow buyers of Russian fine art, Pavel turned into a man who could begin to dictate his tastes. His fame as a great connoisseur of Russian painting grew. And the collection also grew. Pavel, extremely modest and humble in everyday life, spent incredible amounts of money on paintings. At the same time, he kept the household members in strictness: he demanded reports for every penny spent and he did not allow them to buy imported goods when it was possible to buy cheaper local ones. By the beginning of the 1870s, there were already so many paintings in the house that there was no place to hang them, and the family house in Tolmachy received its first extension - the private gallery of the Tretyakov brothers. All people were allowed into the gallery at no charge, without distinction of rank and social status to enjoy famous Russian painters. 

In 1892, after the death of his brother Sergei, Pavel proposed the city of Moscow to accept the gallery along with all the paintings as a gift to the city. At the same time, conditions were set: the city could not manage the collection at its discretion without consulting with Pavel, and after his death, the city would have no right to change the collection in any way. The city agreed to all conditions, and a year later Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov became the life-long trustee of the Moscow City Art Gallery named after P. M. and S. M. Tretyakov.

Shortly before his death, in 1897, Pavel Mikhailovich became an honorary citizen of Moscow. He was able to buy paintings at the expense of the city budget, which he enjoyed until the very end of his life.

"Take care of the gallery" - these were his last words.