At the age of eighteen Tretyakov inherited his father's textile business, and together with other businessmen he helped to found the Moscow merchant bank, amassing a considerable fortune. He began purchasing artworks in 1854 with the intent of making them accessible to the general public, and soon amassed a considerable collection that outgrew his home (which had to be extended on numerous occasions). In 1893 the Tretiakov Gallery was officially opened in a new building in Moscow.
In his capacity of director of the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical Society, he arranged numerous charity concerts, in which Tchaikovsky sometimes participated. There were also family connections — Tretyakov's sister Yelizaveta (1835–1870) was the mother-in-law of the composer's brother Anatoly, and Tretyakov's daughter Vera (1866–1940) was the wife of Tchaikovsky's friend Aleksandr Ziloti.
Correspondence with Tchaikovsky
8 letters from Tchaikovsky to Pavel Tretyakov have survived, dating from 1882 to 1890, all of which have been translated into English on this website:
- Letter 2181 – 26 December 1882/7 January 1883, from Saint Petersburg
- Letter 3120 – 15/27 December 1886, from Moscow
- Letter 3401 – 15/27 November 1887, from Moscow
- Letter 3715 – 30 October/11 November 1888, from Frolovskoye
- Letter 3996 – 3/15 January 1890, from Saint Petersburg
- Letter 4196 – 6/18 August 1890, from Moscow
- Letter 4203 – 23 August/4 September 1890, from Kamenka
- Letter 4241 – 23 October/4 November 1890 (?)
2 letters from Pavel Tretyakov to Tchaikovsky, dating from 1881 and 1890, are preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive.