The gallery of Tolstoy's portraits collected by the museum is unique and extensive. The artists sought to capture the image of the person who was considered anot only as an ingenious writer but also as the conscience of mankind. For many of them Tolstoy became, according to Ilia Repin, “an inexhaustible subject of art”. Every artist who painted a portrait of Tolstoy felt the impact of his unusual personality. This was the reason why many of them decided to illustrate his works and referred to the word of Tolstoy in the turning points of their lives.
It is in this time when artist N.N. Ghe visits Tolstoy in Yasnaya Poliana. Having read the writer's article “About census in Moscow” the artist strives to see the writer whose word is able to change a life. Tolstoy and Ghe become like-minded persons for whom the communion becomes an urgent need. In 1884 in Khamovniki Ghe paints a portrait of Tolstoy, defined by Sofia Tolstoy as a portrait “for himself”. In this portrait Tolstoy is depicted behind his desk writing the discourse “What I Believe”. Tolstoy did not pose for the artist; he just continued working, having forgotten about the presence of the artist. The portrait offers a possibility to look into the creative laboratory of Tolstoy, feel his concentration, intellectual power and calm mind force. The artist was able to transfer “all the most precious in this amazing man”.
The same admiration of the unusual personality of the writer pervades the portrait painted by L.O. Pasternak. The artist often painted Tolstoy live and from memory. The portrait dated 1901 is one of the most famous. It is a portrait-impression. Having seen the writer for the first time at the exhibition of Peredvizhniki (Wanderers), Pasternak remembered sensation of thunderstorm and forces of nature that go against all odds. “Later I tried to depict this Tolstoy in my portrait in profile, against stormy sky…I felt Tolstoy this way…when I saw him for the first time”.
Quite differently Tolstoy is seen by M.V. Nesterov. In front of us we see a portrait of both “a great artist” and “a new, strong in spirit, man”. Tolstoy by Nesterov is a thinker, a philosopher. In the portrait of 1907 Tolstoy is depicted against an evening landscape in Yasnaya Poliana. The discreet silver-gray color allows the artist to transmit Tolstoy's concentration, his detachment and immersion in the world of his inner life, and at the same time his amazing fusion with the natural world he is painted against.
The friendship of Leo Tolstoy and Ilia Repin lasted 30 years. The artist remembered: “…My importunity of an artist was often boring for him, but I loved so much this ingenious man…. after his face any other face is dull and incurious”.
Repin frequently visited Tolstoy, he painted several dozens portraits of the writer and members of his family. In the portrait dated 1909 Tolstoy is depicted in Yasnaya Poliana in the old rose armchair he liked to sit when he listened music.
One of Repin's portraits is represented by a copy done by writer's daughter Tatiana Sukhotin-Tolstoy. A talented artist, she took lessons of V.G. Perov, I.M. Pryanishnikov, I.E. Repin, N.N. Ghe, L.O. Pasternak. Tatiana painted over 30 portrait sketches of Leo Tolstoy. Her works are distinguished by a particular warmth.
Sculptures of Tolstoy are represented by works of N.A. Andreev, N.L. Aronson, I.Y. Ginzburg, I.E. Repin. They convey a portrait likeness, the depth and uniqueness of the inner world of the writer, re-create his unique appearance.
It is the largest collection of items related to the heritage of Russia's greatest writer and philosopher. It is also a world famous It is also the world's largest research, cultural and educational center for studies and promotion of the creative legacy of Tolstoy.
The collection consists of about 500000 items related to the life and work of Leo Tolstoy. It has been the basis for research work of specialists on Tolstoy from Russia and other countries for many decades. The major part of it is a unique collection of manuscripts of the writer and persons close to him; it also includes the collections of art, sculpture, graphics, photos and films (several thousand negatives depicting the writer); a library of rare books and publications with almost all editions of Tolstoy's works undertaken during his life.
The Мuseum was established after death of the writer by the family, friends and loved ones of the writer, many of them being prominent figures of the Russian culture. Among them are his wife Sofia and Tolstoy's children, Russian writers: V. Briusov, I. Bunin, M. Gorki, V. Veresaev; artists: I. Repin, L. Pasternak, V. Меshkov, sculptor S. Меrkurov, representatives of the theatrical community: К. Stanislavski, V. Nemirovich-Danchenko, V. Каchаlov, А. Yablochkina, followers of Tolstoy: V. Chertkov, P. Buriukov, I. Gorbunov-Posadov, N. Gusev, V. Bulgakov. The museum of L.N. Tolstoy, then settled down at 18 Povarskaia street, received first visitors on December 28, 1911. 1920 was the year of significant changes: it changed its status from public to a state one to be denominated further on as the State Literary Museum. The museum was offered new premises in the house of the Lopukhin family at 11 Prechistenka street.
The museum occupies the ancient house which is a unique example of building in Moscow after the Patriotic War of 1812. The house was designed by architect А.G. Grigoriev (1782–1868), who was rebuilding Moscow after the great fire of 1812, alongwith Osip Bove, the Gilardi family, the Shestakov brothers and other famous architects. The Lopukhin house is distinguished by monumentality and refined simplicity of the external decoration. In the house are five state rooms: reception, hall-dining room, large living room and front bedroom. The architectural diversity of the ceremonial room complements the colorful ceiling paintings, made by Italian craftsmen.
In the late 18th - early 19th century the manor belonged to the Guards Lieutenant Basil Avramovic Lopukhin, then to his son Abraham Vasilyevich. Later the house was owned by Katherine Stanitsky, Councilor of the Court. It is not known exactly whether Tolstoy visited the house, though he was a distant relative of the Lopukhin: his cousin's aunt Maria Ivanovna Lopukhin, was the elder sister of Count Tolstoy, Fyodor Ivanovich, nicknamed "American". The Lopukhin house survived until today without significant changes and is now carefully preserved by the museum.