Art lovers should not bypass the museum of this time-tested institution, which contains work by academy students and faculty dating back to its foundation in 1857. Two 3500-year-old sphinxes guard the entrance of this original location of the academy, where boys would live from the age of five until they graduated at age 15. It was an experiment to create a new species of human: the artist.
For the most part, it worked; many great Russian artists were trained here, including Ilya Repin, Karl Bryullov and Anton Losenko. But the curriculum was designed with the idea that the artist must serve the state, and this conservatism led to a reaction against it. In 1863, 14 students left to found a new movement known as the Wanderers (Peredvizhniki), which went on to revolutionise Russian art.
Nonetheless, the Academy of Arts has many achievements to show off, including numerous studies, drawings and paintings by academy members. On the 3rd floor you can examine the models for the original versions of Smolny Cathedral, St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. When you enter through the main door take the flight of stairs on your left up to the 2nd floor, where you can buy tickets.