It was founded in 1856 by the Moscow merchant Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898), who acquired several works by contemporary Russian artists, with the aim of creating an artistic collection, which eventually became this national art museum. In 1892, Tretyakov presented his already famous repertoire to Russian nation. It is considered the main depository of Russian fine arts in the world.
The facade of the building housing the gallery was designed by the painter Viktor Vasnetsov, to the typical style of a Russian fairy tale. It was built between 1902 and 1904 to the south of the Moscow Kremlin. During the twentieth century, the gallery expanded to several neighboring buildings, including the Church of St. Nicholas in Khamovniki. A new building, located in the Val Krymski, is used for the promotion of modern Russian art.
The collection consists of more than 130,000 works of art, the range of the Virgin of Vladimir and Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, to the monumental Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square. In 1977 the gallery contained a significant part of the collection of George Costakis. Also they include other equally important works by artists Ivan Aivazovsky, Ivan Argunov, Andrei Kolkoutine, Orest Kiprensky, Valentin Serov, Vasily Polenov, Dmitri Levitsky, Ilya Repin, Mikhail Nesterov, Ivan Shishkin and Marc Chagall