The Winter Palace

Catherine the Great started the collection in 1764

In 1764, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great purchased a considerable collection of Western European paintings, laying the foundation for the modern-day Hermitage. Today, the Hermitage is one of the largest museums in the world and has more than three million objects. Over the last 20 years, the facilities of the Hermitage Museum have been expanded by the on-going construction of the Staraya Derevnya open storage facility and laboratory complex, as well as the renovation of the General Staff Building on Palace Square to house its collections of contemporary art, the addition of Menshikov Palace and other buildings.

The art in the Hermitage Museum represents, for the most part, the former imperial collection of the tsars, which began some 300 years ago when Peter the Great began acquiring pictures and artifacts. The collection was hugely augmented in the late 18th century by Catherine the Great who bought many of the key Renaissance paintings. Catherine the Great established the Museum in 1764 and it was opened to the public by Nicholas I in 1852. The Hermitage’s collections comprise over three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The museum’s different departments which cover all forms of art, including impressive archeology and antiquities collections are housed in a large complex of historic buildings, some of which served as residence of former Russian Emperors.

Naturally, only a small portion of the collection can be displayed at any given time. Today, tours of the Hermitage are usually longer than 3 hours and incredibly popular. Visitors may see exhibitions in any of several buildings that are mostly lined up along the Palace Embankment of the Neva River. The displayed collections include The Western European Art collection with some of the biggest names such as Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Pissarro, Degas, Matisse, Picasso, Malevich, Kandinsky and many others. Other collections on display are the Egyptian and classical antiquities, Prehistoric art, jewellery and decorative art, Italian Renaissance, Italian and Spanish fine art, Arsenal collection, Dutch Golden Age and Flemish Baroque and of course the Russian Art Collection.