The Imperial Academy of Arts or the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts was founded by Count Ivan Shuvalov in 1757. It was opened under the name “Academy of Three Noblest Arts”.
History and Background of the Academy:
When Count Ivan Shuvalov started the academy, classes were held at the Count’s house at Sadovaya Street. This continued till 1764. Catherine the Great renamed the academy as the Imperial Academy of Arts. She hired Alexander Kokorinov, the first Rector of the Imperial Academy of Arts to design the new academy structures. The new construction took 25 years to be completed and was designed in the Neoclassical style. Alexander Kokorinov worked along with Jean Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe to design the building. The interior décor was done by Konstantin Thon who also designed a quayside that was decorated with three thousand years old sphinxes and griffins, bought all the way from Egypt.
Art Style at the Academy:
The Imperial Academy of Arts was recognized by Ivan Betskoy into the de-facto government. The de-facto government department regulated art in the country and allotted orders and ranks to the artists. The academy endorsed the Neoclassical principles and sent the most noteworthy artists abroad to learn about the ancient art styles and research upon Renaissance art work in Italy and France. The academy had its own art work collection for study and copy purposes. The teachings of the staff at the Imperial Academy of Arts were heavily influenced by the doctrines of Ingres. By the middle of the 19th century the younger generation of painters started challenging those teachings. The new breeds of painters were more inclined towards realistic portrayal of subjects in their paintings. This movement was known as Peredvizhniki. The leader of this movement was Ivan Kramskoi.
The Peredvizhniki Movement:
Ivan Kramskoi, the leader of the Peredvizhniki movement broke up with the academy in a much publicized move. The revolutionaries started their own exhibitions and moved across from town to town in Russia. However some of the members of the Peredvizhniki movement considered the training at the Imperial Academy of Arts to be indispensable for developing basic professional skills.