With people coming from all around the world to view the works of these Russian artists, we delve a little deeper into the stories behind the names of five of the essential Russian artists that you need to know about.

Andrei Rublev

Born: 1360
Died: 1428

About Andrei Rublev

  • Considered to be one of the greatest medieval Russian painters of frescos and Orthodox icons, there is little information around today that sheds more light on Andrei Rublev.
  • The first written mention of Rublev dates to 1405 when he worked with Theophanes the Greek at the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin, decorating frescos and icons. Rublev’s name is listed last on the list of maters due to him being junior by both age and rank.
  • Working with Daniil Cherni in 1408 Rublev painted the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir and between 1425 and 1427, the Trinity Cathedral in the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
  • After the death of Daniil Cherni Rublev worked on his last painting, The Frescoes of the Saviour Cathedral at the Andronikov Monastery, Moscow.
  • Following his death and due to his legacy and style, in 1988 the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Andrei Rublev as a Saint and his day of feast is celebrated on the 29th January and / or 4th July.

Karl Bryullov

Born: 12th December 1799
Died: 11th June 1852

About Karl Bryullov

  • Recognised as a major player in the transition in Russian art from neoclassicism to romanticism, Karl Bryullov was simply known as ‘The Great Karl’ to his friends. Born in 1799 in St. Petersburg, Bryullov left Russia after he finished his studies and relocated to Rome where he worked as a genre painter and portraitist until 1835. However, Bryullov was relatively unknown until he started historical painting.
  • The Last Day Of Pompeii (1830-1833) is widely considered to be his best-known work. The Italians loved it and Bryullov was established as one of the finest European painters of his generation. After completion of this work in 1833, Bryullov returned to Russia, making many upper-class friends along the way and working in the Imperial Academy of Arts.
  • During the years of 1836 – 1848 and whilst working at the academy, Bryullov worked and developed a portrait style combining the simplicity of neoclassical with a more romantic hue that worked well together.
  • Due to ill-health, Bryullov returned to Italy in 1849 and died near Rome three years later.

Ivan Shishkin

Born: 25th January 1832
Died: 20th March 1898

About Ivan Shishkin

  • After studying for four years at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, Ivan Shishkin graduated from the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts with the highest honours and a gold medal in 1860. Following on from this, he received the imperial scholarship for his further studies in Europe.
  • Between 1873 and 1898 Shishkin was employed as a professor of painting at the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg and during this same time period, Shishkin also ran the landscape painting class at the Highest Art School, St. Petersburg.
  • The painting methods Shishkin favoured and became known for based on his comprehensive studies of nature and his surroundings. Forest landscapes were a particular favourite scene of his to paint.
  • Prior to his death in 1898, Shishkin completed his last painting ‘The Pine Grove’ and worked as a professor-director of the landscape class at the Academy’s Advanced Art School.

Ilya Repin

Born: 5th August 1844
Died: 29th September 1930

About Ilya Repin

  • A Russian realist painter, Ilya Repin was perhaps the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century and he played a major role when it came to introducing Russian art into the mainstream of European culture.
  • After finishing military school, Repin became an apprentice with his fathers’ help and worked with Ivan Bunakov restoring old icons as well as painting portraits of local nobles through commissions.  Following this in 1863, Repin attended and studied painting at St. Petersburg Art Academy. In 187 5– 1876 Repin showed at the Salon, Paris and at various exhibitions including the Itinerants’ Society in Saint Petersburg. 1876 saw Repin awarded the title of academician.
  • After 1880, Repin painted ‘Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks’, ‘Religious Procession in Kursk Province’ and ‘Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan.’ Around the same time as these paintings, Repin also wrote and published ‘Letters on Art’ which was a collection of essays.
  • After being awarded the Legion of Honour in 1901, Repin and his partner travelled to the World Exhibition in Italy where several his works were displayed and in 1916, work started on his book of reminiscences called ‘Far and Near’ with the help of Korney Chukovsky.
  • Repin never returned to Russia and instead lived out the rest of his days in Finland up to his death in 1930.

Boris Kustodiev

Born: 7th March 1878
Died: 26th May 1927

About Boris Kustodiev

  • A Soviet painter and stage designer, the death of Boris Kustodiev’s father shaped the rest of his life. After his father passed, the financial responsibilities fell to his mother who rented a house for the Kustodiev family within a wing of a rich merchant’s house. It was here that Boris formed his first impressions of the merchant class and the lifestyle attached. These observations were kept for years and he recreated them in later works in oil and watercolour.
  • After taking private art lessons with Vasily Perov, Kustodiev later attended Ilya Repin’s class at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg as well as taking sculpture classes with Dmitry Stelletsky and also etching with Vasily Mate.
  • Following on from good work in Repin’s class, Boris Kustodiev was invited to work alongside him as his assistant on a large scale canvas, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the State Council. Although the work on this job was hard and involved a lot of hours, Boris Kustodiev worked hard alongside Repin and made portrait studies and also finished the right-hand side of the finished painting. As well as working on this piece, Kustodiev also created a number of portraits of his spiritual comrades including, Ivan Bilibin, Moldovtsev and Mate.  Working up close on portraits helped Boris with his art, allowing him the time to look closely upon his model and focus on the human.
  • Kustodiev travelled around France and Spain in 1904 and continued to travel further in Europe after, painting portraits and genre pieces as he travelled – however the urge to return to Russia was never far away and in an excerpt of a letter written to Mate, Boris stated that he was glad to be “in our blessed Russian land” again.
  • In 1916 Kustodiev became paraplegic however his uplifting and joyful attitude and approach to life inspired and helped those around him. The colourful works that followed didn’t show the physical pain and suffering he was experiencing and instead showed a happy and cheerful life. His famous works ‘Pancake Tuesday in a Village. Maslenitsa’ and ‘Fontanka’ are both painted entirely from memory.
  • Up until his death in 1927, Boris Kustodiev joined the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia and worked creating engravings, design for the theatre and illustrating books, never letting his paraplegia getting in the way.

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