The Stroganoffs and the Arts

The Stroganoff family has had an important and centuries long involvement in the development of Russian art and culture. In the 16th century the family imported artists from Moscow and Novgorod deep into the Russian north, where they established in the Stroganoff lands a brilliant school of painting and the decorative arts which came to bear the family's name - the Stroganoff School. This style was characterised by bravura technique, brilliant colors and opulent materials and it had a significant effect on Russia as a whole and the Tsar's court in Moscow.

Characteristic of medieval times in Russia, noble Stroganoff wives ran cloistered workshops of needlework where splendid works of gold, silver and silk were created for domestic wear and for liturgical use in the church. There was also a Stroganoff school of architecture, which was most evident in the many churches built by the family in cities like Solvychegodsk and Nizhni Novgorod and a specific school of Stroganoff singing

Shown above: Baron G. A. Stroganoff by Louise-Elisabeth Vigeé-Lebrun, 1793, 36" x 26", State Hermitage, St. Petersburg (formally collection of M. M. Stroganova).

When Peter the Great moved the capital of Russia from ancient Moscow to his new Baltic city of St. Petersburg, the Stroganoffs established their residence there and became leaders in the Westernisation of Russia. They patronised the finest architects and artists from throughout Russia and Europe as a whole. In Petersburg they built one of the finest private residences in Russia, which housed an art collection suppassed only by the Imperial collection of the Tsars themselves.

This collection more than 100 paintings by the finest European artists from 17 different European schools. Represented in the collection were first class works by Rembrandt, Poisson, Lorrain, Van Dyck and others. Sculpture was also a part of the collection and contained works by Falconet, Houdon and other masters.

At right: the Pavillion at the Stroganoff Estate at Bratsevo

Not content with the private enjoyment of their art, the Stroganoffs used their collection as a school for Russian artists and also as an inspiration for the growth of Russian culture in general. From 1800 - 1811 a Stroganoff was the President of the Academy of Arts and nurtured the work of famous Russian artists such as Kiprensky and Ivan Prokoviev. In 1822 Count Sergei Stroganoff founded the Moscow Drawing School, which still exists today.

On their estates the Stroganoffs founded a special university for their serfs and promising students were singled out for special support and development. Serfs discovered to possess artistic skills were sent to the Petersburg Academy of Arts under the tutelage of the famous Russian architect, Voronikhin, himself born a serf on a Stroganoff estate.

This involvement in the arts continued throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. During World War I a museum was opened by Sergei A. Stroganoff within the family's Petrograd palace for the enjoyment of the Russian people.

In the year 2000 the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon will feature an exhibit of art from the former collections of the Stroganoff Family.