The start of the painting collection was laid by I.I. Shuvalov, the Academy’s first president, only one masterpiece of this collection has survived till now, and it’s a painting of a Venice painter Andrea Celesti “Killing the Infants”. This canvas, as well as paintings of artists of different European schools (Italian, German, Flemish, French and Belgian) of the15th – 19th centuries, gives us the opportunity to name the masters which creative work the Academy of Art strived to study. The works of such painters as Le Lorrain, Luca Giordanno (seven works of which are presented in the museum), Pier Francesco Mola, Angelica Kaufman, Annibale Carracci, Guercino, G. Lazzarini, Abraham Hondius, Anton Raphael Mengs, Georg Philipp Rugendas, Eugene Verboeckhoven, Barend Cornelius Koekkoek and other masters were a part of the historic collection of the Academy and served as a guide for future artists to standards of composition, color and light solutions. Replicating the works of these painters was one of obligatory stages of the Academy’s training system.
The painting collection also comprises some first-class examples of “Rossika”, works of foreign painters who lived and worked in Russia –I.F. Groot, J.B. Lampi, J.L. Moigne, I. Drollinger.
Replicating was made only using original works, but also replicas of very high qualities (for instance, from the masterpieces of Raphael, Guido Renii, Veronese) which were specially purchased or gifted to the Academy. Its best graduates which except of the golden medal were (for accomplishing the program) also awarded the beneficiary trip abroad for improving the skills (at expense of the government which paid the beneficiary’s pension) were given the task by the Board of Directors and, being in Italy, Spain or Germany, made a copy of an outstanding masterpiece in full size. Such a copy, on the one hand, served as a school for a beneficiary and proved his skills, on the other hand, the copy itself used to become the example to be studied by the Academy’s scholars. Collection of replicas made by K.P. Bryullov, F.A. Bruni, P.V. Basin part of which decorate the ceremonial Raphael and Titan halls is one of the most comprehensive and is characterized by a very high performance quality; among these replicas one can also find the copies of European painters.
From the beginning of Academy’s existence only the best studies, sketches, drawings programs (i.e. tasks with obligatory themes) made for silver and golden medals, for degrees of the academician and the professor (end of the 18th-beginning of the 20th century) were left in its collection. Even now these works make a significant and very valuable part of the collection. The name of the works’ painters: K.D. Flavitsky, I.N. Kramskoy, К. А. Savitsky, P.P. Chistyakov, V.D. Polenov, I.Ye. Repin, B.M. Kustodiyev, G.N. Gorelov, D.N. Kardovsky, N. К. Rerich, I.G. Myasoyedov, A.P. Ryabushkin, N.I.Feshin and the works of less known painters made with a high professional level which proves the achievements of the Academy school.
Skillful works of A.P. Antropov, N.I. Argunov, K.P. Bryullov, I.N. Kramskoy, N.N.Ge, I.I. Shishkin together with a brilliant gallery of portraits of the professors, honorable members and presidents of the Academy of Arts painted by European and Russian painters of the 18th-19th centuries are the pride of the collection.
A great interest represent preparation cartoons of F.A. Bruni made for paintings in Isaac cathedral; paintings of G.B. Skotti and G.Ferrari in Tavrichesky Palace, paintings of I. Drollinger in the dacha of A.P. Bryullov in Pavlovsk (made by the sketches of the architect himself).
Another part of the collection connected with the educational process of 1920s-1930s (paintings and sketches of theater sceneries and costumes) is not broadly known to a wide circle of specialists.
Soviet school of arts in its classical form is represented by the study works and the graduate paintings of I.I.Brodsky, A.I.Laktionov, Yu.M.Neprintsev, Ye.Ye. Moiseyenko, T.T. Salakhov and other painters. Kept in the Museum’s funds full-size programs and sketches of the compositions of the 1940s – 1960s make a significant part of the collection and are a valuable evidence of the highest escalation of the school of the Soviet epoch. This collection reflects different ways of development of Leningrad and Moscow painting traditions; from 1947 till 1980s the Museum accepted the best study and graduate works not only from the Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture after I.Ye.Repin, but also from the Moscow Institute after V.I. Surikov which was also a member of the Academy of Arts’ system.
Nowadays the painting fund is replenished thanks to the gifts of the painters which studied and taught in the Academy (or their families), honorable members of the Russian Academy of Arts.