Nikolai Samokish was a highly respected military painter. His skills are demonstrated on this painting, particularly in its masterful composition, which conveys a strong sense of narrative tension through a subtle arrangement of forms.
Samokish’s style was honed from direct experience. In 1887 he was appointed an official artist by the Defense Ministry and, together with Ivan Aivazovsky and Franz Roubaud, sketched military manoeuvres. He visited the Caucasus the following year and painted three battle pictures for the Tiflis Museum of Military History. In 1904-1905 he was the official painter at the Russian-Japanese war, and later explored themes linked to the Red Army as a military painter.
Born in the Ukraine in 1860, Nikolai Semenovich Samokish received academic training at the St.Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts between 1879 and 1885. In 1886, he was granted a travel scholarship from the Academy, enabling him to study painting in Paris.
Samokish was well versed in the traditions of military painting in the late nineteenth century and sought to expand the repertoire of Russian military painting through his own work. Samokish returned to the Academy in 1912 – as a professor this time. In recognition for his mastery of the genre, he was appointed director of the Academy’s battle-scene class, where his students included M. Avilov, P. Kotov, and G. Savitsky.
He based a number of paintings on the heroic feats of the Red Army during the Civil War of 1918–1920. Notable among these canvases is The Crossing of the Si-vash by the Red Army (1935), held in the Simferopol Art Museum.
Samokish was also well known as an illustrator: he contributed 173 illustrations to four volumes of Royal Hunting in Russia (1896–1911), illustrated A Century of the Ministry of War and A History of the Dragoon Life Guards Regiment (1890’s) and the works of Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol and Leo Tolstoy.
Works by Nikolai Samokish can be found in such museums collections as the Russian Museum in St.Petersburg, the Tretyakov Gallery and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Kiev national museum of Russian art, Simferopol Art Museum and others.