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The Hermitage Museum in Leningrad is the largest public museum and art gallery in the Soviet Union and one of the important in the world. The initiative was given by Peter the Great and the plans for the first Hermitage building and the Academy of Arts (founded in 1757) was made for the Empress Elizabeth by the architect Vallin de la Mot he as an extension of the famous Winter Palace of Rastrelli. The basis of the collection of Western European paintings was laid by Catherine the Great, one of the voracious collectors of the time. From 1802 pictures by Russian artists began to be added to the collection. In 1837 the Winter Palace was ravaged by fire and the New Hermitage was built by the architect, Leo von Klcnze, 1840—49. In 1849 the Curators drew up the inventory of the collection 4,500 pictures. The collection continued to grow, doubling the number of its pictures between 1910 and 1932. In the 1950s it comprised over 8,000 pictures, 40,000 drawings, and 500,000 engravings. After the Soviet Revolution the collections came into public ownership. Special emphasis is laid upon illustrating the continuity of Russia in history and art, from prehistoric art, consisting chiefly of archaeological material from the Soviet Union, to the present day. About the million and a half people visit the Museum every year and the sections devoted to the "Heroic past of the Russian people" remain the most popular. The album is intended to acquaint readers with the best examples of Russian cultu...
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