The Department of Pictorial Materials (fine arts) houses circa five hundred thousand works of art. The core of the Department collection was made up of the documents displayed during the Moscow Polytechnic Exhibition in 1872. In general it was photos covering the Crimean war of 1853. The collection was further expanded in different ways: masterpieces were acquired at auctions, donated by individuals, namely P.Y. Dashkov, I.H. Kolodeev, inherited from SHM collection creators, such as P.I. Shchukin and A.P. Bakhrushin. After 1917 the collection was significantly augmented with works of art transferred from the State Museum Collection, Proletarian Museums and topical museums – that of Ancient Moscow and the Domestic Museum of the 1840s; in the 1920-1930s – with paintings, sculpture and graphic artworks from the so-called “Museum of 1812” which never became reality, and items gathered by the museum staff.
A huge part of the SHM’s collection of fine arts is portrait painting. Six unique parsunas (portraits) of the latter third of the 17th century are a source of pride in the Historical Museum’s Collection of Paintings of the 18th century. These are the portrait of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich in full attire, portraits of A.K. Naryshkin, Lyutkin and others. The SHM has works of art by prominent Russian artists A.P. Antropov, I.P. Argunov, M.L. Kolokolnikov, F.S. Rokotov, V.A. Borovikovsky and others.
The Collection of Paintings of the 19th century features works of V.A. Tropinin and foreign artists (M. Gaumion, B. Ch. Mitoir, K. Lasch and others), the largest collection of folk art portrait painting of the earlier half of the 19th century.
The Collection of Water-colours and Drawings of the 19th-early 20th centuries represents portrait painting with unique watercolours by P. Sokolov, V. Gay, K. Brullov, C. Hampeln, pastels by C. Bardou, D. Kaffe and I.-G. Schmidt, and drawings by V. Zhukovsky.
The Collection of Fine Arts contains portrait miniatures of the 18th-early 20th centuries created in the classical (bone, watercolour, gouache) or a more rare technique (enamel on metal, etc.). A true gem is the richest Russian collection of eglomisés (engraving on gilt glass).
The portraits are executed in different techniques: engraving, lithography, chromolithography, zincography, phototypy and offset. The iconography of the Royal Family Members, from Peter I up to Nicholas II is especially interesting
The collection of the first photographic images on metal plate, daguerreotype portraits of 1840-1850s (Portrait of N.T. Granovsky, Decembrist S.G. Volkonsky and his wife M.N. Volkonskaya) is the largest in our country (circa 300 units) and the most valuable part of the SHM’s photography collection.
The Sculpture collection focuses mostly on the period of the late 18th- early 19th centuries, it is represented by works of I.P. Martos, L.-M. Guichard, D-A. Chaudet and others, produced in marble, bronze, stone and spelter. Of particular interest must be the series of works by A. Canova and his circle, such as the portraits of Napoleon and his family, the ceremonial portrait of F.I. Shubin.
The Collection of Architectural Drawings of the 18th- early 20th centuries is a unique part of the SHM’s holdings. What is worth special attention here is a series of rare-content underdrawings by I. Sabat and S. Shiflyar to be later used in the creation of lithoprinted views of the 1820s Saint-Petersburg, and the views of Warsaw and its surroundings produced by Polish artist Z. Vogel in the latter quarter of the 18th century.
The most significant and complete among Russia’s museums, the Collection of Moscow views of the mid-16th – early 20th centuries (about 10 000 items) is a source of pride for the Historical Museum. It includes watercolours and drawings by famous Moscow and Saint- Petersburg artists who practiced cityscape genre, such as F. Alexeev and M. Vorobyev, N. Makovsky and M. Chichagov. The Collection “Churches and Monasteries of Moscow” consists of drawings, plans and views of the most famous Moscow and its suburb monuments.
The great-value Collection of the Peter I Era Engravings features authentic works depicting the major events that occurred in the military and political history of the first quarter of the 18th century.
The Collection of cheap popular prints is mainly represented by common pictures dating to the 19th century.
In the Collection of Posters which spans the period from the mid-19th century up to the present there are works of K. Korovin, K. Somov, I. Belibin, A. and V. Vasnetsovs, K. Malevich, A. Lentulov, V. Mayakovsky, D. Moor, I. Toidze, V. Koretsky, B. Efimov, the trio Kukryniksy and others.
The unique Collection of Authors’ Photographic Negatives covers the period of the late 19th century to the present day and fully reflects the history of Russia during the 1910-20s and the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
The Collection of Photos on Russian History of the 20th century attracts attention by exhibition materials of 1942 devoted to the Battle of Moscow. Works of prominent national photographers (M.S. Nappelbaum, Z.Z. Vinogradov, Y.I. Ryumkin and others) have high historical and artistic value likewise.
The cultural and historical expeditions of the 1930-1980’s carried out by SHM employees contributed to the expansion of the photography collection with new shots on the history of the Soviet Republics and various regions across the RSFSR, their plants and factories.