Art Tours to St. Petersburg: Each summer, during the White Nights Festival, the Hermitage Group hosts artists and travelers for Insiders Art Tours. In addition, dates and programs  can be custom tailored to individuals or groups, so contact us for personalized itineraries: Below are the general program details:

St. Petersburg--A City for Artists

St. Petersburg offers the perfect surroundings for art study. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as Russia's window on the West, St. Petersburg became one of the leading cultural capitols of Europe by the 19th century. Peter brought architects from Italy, France, and Holland to create a city in the grand European tradition. Canals, designed to acknowledge Peter's love for Amsterdam reinforce St. Petersburg's connection to its western neighbors. And its artists have always been held in high esteem, with statues and monuments throughout the city honoring its poets, writers, and musicians .

Your visit will begin with both bus and canal tours through St. Petersburg giving you two complementary views of this paradoxical city. Everywhere you look you will see unique architectural wonders, which 70 years of Soviet planning couldn't destroy. The city is faded from its former glory, but filled with an exuberance and excitement as it fights to reclaim its heritage.

You will be visiting only one week after the longest day of the year. During this time of the White Nights, darkness never falls completely. There are numerous musical, dance, theatrical, and other artistic events in the evenings for which your guides can arrange admission. Or simply stroll though the city and experience the pastels of a midnight dusk as they paint the city's buildings.

For the practicing artist, St. Petersburg offers exposure to both the historical and recent influences of Western art. From the incredible richness of its iconography to the dynamic experiments of the constructivists, futurists and the Russian avante garde, one immediately senses the font from which many contemporary movements sprang.

The Hermitage Group of St. Petersburg

The 8 artists/teachers who founded the The Hermitage Group have worked and  painted together since the late 1960's. But, because of their unwillingness to follow the dictates of state sanctioned artistic norms, they were forbidden from exhibiting in their own country until the reforms of glasnost.

In 1990, they opened The St. Petersburg College of Composition, the first independent art school in St. Petersburg. In part because of the underground following they developed through their clandestine activities during their years as teachers in Soviet art schools, upwards of 200 students were enrolled in the school by 1992.

In that same year, and again in 1993, they toured the United States meeting with artists and educators during a series of exhibitions and workshops. Through these contacts, the international exchange workshops were created as a vehicle to bring the rich artistic heritage of the Hermitage Group's painting and teaching techniques to Western Europeans and Americans.

Noted Art Critic Peter Frank describes their unique perspective:

The Workshop Format

Because of the richness and diversity of its cultural heritage, the city itself will become your campus. Your studies will include a combination of studio work at the Hermitage Group's school, classes at various museums, and outdoor drawing and painting throughout St. Petersburg. Participants will receive both specific and detailed technical input as well as first hand experience with the Renaissance and modern masters'  paintings which form the essence of the Hermitage Group teachings. And most importantly, you will have plenty of free time to explore the streets and alleys of the city which inspired Pushkin, Rimsky Korsikov, Dostoevsky, Malevich, Kandinsky, and Chagall.

The workshops have been designed with small class size to allow separate sections appropriate to any level of expertise from beginning student to professional artist. Sections will be provided for high school students, college level students, hobbyists as well for as art teachers and professionals.

While the specific format of the classes will be designed on the spot to acknowledge participants' needs and to allow time for special events, the general plan is for week-day classes from 10:00 until 12:30 and from 2:00 until 4:30 with lunch served at the school. Many of the afternoons will include visits to the Hermitage and Russian Museums for both lectures and free time to explore.

Emphasis of the art instruction will be on two dimensional drawing and mixed media, including pastels, watercolor, ink, charcoal and pencil. Throughout the program every attempt will be made to maximize your interaction with the Russian people. The classes will include students from St. Petersburg, and you will be invited to artists' studios throughout  the city. We will have a closing reception and (if you are brave) a joint exhibition of the participants work.

The Culture and Sightseeing program

For those participants not taking the workshops, we will offer a guided exploration of the treasures of St. Petersburg as well as an insider's look which few visitors get. In addition to visits to the major museums, cathedrals and palaces, our sightseers will be invited to a variety of behind the scenes looks at the cultural life of the city. Since the artists of the Hermitage Group are part of the St. Petersburg's' artistic circle, they are able to arrange very special activities. For example, last year's program included visits backstage at the Kirov Ballet, meeting with museum restoration experts, entrance to the closed collections of the Ethnography museum which house one of the largest collections of Native American artifacts outside the U.S., and private tours of the Hermitage Museum.  


For everyone, we will provide plenty of opportunities to shop for folk arts and crafts, vodka and even caviar under the guidance of the most resourceful shoppers in the world. There are stores and small markets throughout the city where Russians buy their presents, which few tourists ever see. We'll help you navigate them and provide translators. The media would have you believe there is nothing to buy in Russia...don't you believe it!

A word on Schedules

While the Soviet banner has fallen, the fabled Russian bureaucracy still stands. Rather than planning an exact itinerary, we coordinate our days between guides, artists and art historians to take advantage of unpublicized events. Many of the activities during your visit will be arranged on a moment's notice. The itinerary is characterized by a flexibility which allows us to respond to opportunities as they arise.


The Grand Hotel Europe --14 days--From $4,300 including airfare from New York

For travelers who want to mix some indulgence into their workshop experience, we offer the 5-star pleasures of one of Europe's premier hotels. Restored in 1991 to its Art Nouveau splendor, the Grand is managed by the Scandinavian Reso Hotel properties.

Centrally located, the Grand is walking distance from most major attractions. Its bars, restaurants, gift shops and exemplary concierge staff offer the visitor every convenience. Your stay includes buffet breakfast daily and transportation to and from IAISP.

As with any great urban center, the vibrancy and excitement of St. Petersburg can become trying and exhausting. The Grand Hotel will provide you with a respite and sanctuary so you can rekindle your energy to once again explore and discover the treasures of the city.

HomeStay Program--14 days--From $2,500 including airfare from N.Y.

Designed primarily for our high school and college participants, this program is open to anyone seeking a more personal experience of Russian life. While it also offers significant cost savings, its primary benefit is not financial. You will be staying with artists' families and friends and living as the Russians do. Through all their past and current difficulties, between their shortages and long lines, Russian family life maintains an incredible warmth. Their hospitality is unparalleled, and what they lack in material possessions they more than compensate for with gifts of the heart. It will be an exciting and wonderful experience as you join your host family in the daily ritual of life in the new Russia.

You will eat breakfast and dinner with your hosts, and contrary to most media stories, there is plenty of food in Russia, but for the average Russian it is prohibitively expensive. Your host families will receive dollars to purchase food and prepare meals to Western standards. Russian cuisine is rich and hearty, and also includes many vegetarian dishes. If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know. While we cannot guarantee particular culinary details, every attempt will be made to satisfy your needs.

Your host families will be screened and approved as knowledgeable of and sympathetic to the needs of American travelers. Even so, the traveler who selects this option must be adventurous, open to different standards, and willing to accept the absence of many things we take for granted. Second bathrooms, for example, are unheard of. Numerous small inconveniences require that you come with an open attitude.


Tony Wolff is the Hermitage Group representative in America. Formerly an international management consultant to such companies as Apple Computer, IBM, AT&T, Bank of America, etc., he scaled back his business significantly in the late 80s to devote his efforts to citizen diplomacy projects with the then Soviet Union. As a volunteer consultant for the U.S./Russian Foundation for Social Innovation, Tony first visited the Soviet Union in 1989, and met the Hermitage Group. He was inspired by the dedication of these artists who had painted together for over 20 years even though they were prohibited for most of that time from exhibiting their work; the next two years were spent securing permission to bring the artists and their paintings to the U.S. We would love to share the fruits of that dedication with you.

Details of pricing and program options are available upon request

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Hermitage Group, Carmel, California