Viktor Vasnetsov

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Viktor Vasnetsov
Wiktor Michajlowitsch Wassnezow 003.jpg
Self-portrait 1873
Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov
Виктор Михайлович Васнецов

15 May 1848
Died23 July 1926(1926-07-23) (aged 78)
Nationality Russian
Education Imperial Academy of Arts
Known for Painting
Notable work
A Knight at the Crossroads , Bogatyrs
Movement Symbolism; History painting, Peredvizhniki
Patron(s) Pavel Tretyakov, Savva Mamontov
Signature by Viktor Vasnetsov. 1886 Viktor Vasnetsov Signature 1886.png
Signature by Viktor Vasnetsov. 1886

Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov (Russian : Ви́ктор Миха́йлович Васнецо́в; May 15 (N.S.), 1848 – July 23, 1926) was a Russian artist who specialized in mythological and historical subjects. He is considered the co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic nationalistic painting [1] (see also neo-romanticism), and a key figure in the Russian revivalist movement.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Artist person who creates, practises and/or demonstrates any art

An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art, practicing the arts, or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only. The term is often used in the entertainment business, especially in a business context, for musicians and other performers. "Artiste" is a variant used in English only in this context; this use is becoming rare. Use of the term to describe writers, for example, is valid, but less common, and mostly restricted to contexts like criticism.

History Past events and their record

History is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.



Childhood (1848–1858)

Viktor Vasnetsov was born in the remote village of Lopyal in Vyatka Governorate in 1848, the second of the six children. [2] His father Mikhail Vasilievich Vasnetsov, known to be philosophically inclined, was a member of priesthood, and of scholarly dictation in the natural sciences and astronomy. His grandfather was an icon painter. Two of Mikhail Vasnetsov's three sons, Viktor and Apollinary, became remarkable painters, the third one becoming a schoolteacher. It was in Lopyal that Viktor started to paint, mostly landscapes and scenes of village life. Recalling his childhood in a letter to Vladimir Stasov, Vasnetsov remarked that he "had lived with peasant children and liked them not as a narodnik but as a friend". [2]

Vyatka Governorate governorate of the Russian Empire

Vyatka Governorate was a governorate of the Russian Empire and Russian SFSR, with its capital in city Vyatka, from 1796 to 1929. In the governorate’s area were situated most parts of modern Kirov Oblast and Udmurt Republic.

Astronomy Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It applies mathematics, physics, and chemistry in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets; the phenomena also includes supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, all phenomena that originate outside Earth's atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy. A branch of astronomy called cosmology is the study of the Universe as a whole.

Icon religious work of art, generally a panel painting, in Eastern Christianity

An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Roman Catholic, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. The most common subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and angels. Although especially associated with "portrait" style images concentrating on one or two main figures, the term also covers most religious images in a variety of artistic media produced by Eastern Christianity, including narrative scenes. Icons can represent various scenes in the Bible.

Vyatka (1858–1867)

From the age of ten, Viktor studied in a seminary in Vyatka, each summer moving with his family to a rich merchant village of Ryabovo. During his seminary years, he worked for a local icon shopkeeper. He also helped an exiled Polish artist, Michał Elwiro Andriolli, to execute frescoes for Vyatka's Alexander Nevsky cathedral.

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Michał Elwiro Andriolli Polish artist, architect, and revolutionary

Michał Elwiro Andriolli was a Polish painter and architect of Italian descent. He is notable for his illustrations to Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz, as well as a distinctive style of villas built outside Warsaw. He was probably most well known for his architecture — Świdermajer. This was a regional architectural style common in the Otwock, Poland region. These structures were wooden in construction and were popularized from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Its creator was Michał Elwiro Andriolli. It is characterized by gazebos and decorations above the windows, some of the houses also had turrets. Pine trees were planted together with the buildings as part of the composition.

Fresco Mural painting upon freshly laid lime plaster

Fresco is a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly laid, or wet lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes an integral part of the wall. The word fresco is derived from the Italian adjective fresco meaning "fresh", and may thus be contrasted with fresco-secco or secco mural painting techniques, which are applied to dried plaster, to supplement painting in fresco. The fresco technique has been employed since antiquity and is closely associated with Italian Renaissance painting.

Having graduated from the seminary, Viktor decided to move to Saint Petersburg to study art. He auctioned his paintings of Woman Harvester and Milk-maid (both 1867) in order to raise money required for the trip to the Russian capital.

Saint Petersburg Federal city in Northwestern Federal Okrug, Russia

Saint Petersburg is Russia's second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal subject.

Saint Petersburg (1867–1876)

In August 1867 Viktor entered the Imperial Academy of Arts. Three years later, the Peredvizhniki movement of realist painters rebelled against the Academism.

Imperial Academy of Arts art school in Russia

The Russian Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, informally known as the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts, was founded in 1757 by the founder of the Imperial Moscow University Ivan Shuvalov under the name Academy of the Three Noblest Arts. Catherine the Great renamed it the Imperial Academy of Arts and commissioned a new building, completed 25 years later in 1789 by the Neva River. The academy promoted the neoclassical style and technique, and sent its promising students to European capitals for further study. Training at the academy was virtually required for artists to make successful careers.

Peredvizhniki group of Russian realist artists

Peredvizhniki, often called The Wanderers or The Itinerants in English, were a group of Russian realist artists who formed an artists' cooperative in protest of academic restrictions; it evolved into the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions in 1870.

Vasnetsov befriended their leader Ivan Kramskoi, referring to him as his teacher. He also became very close to his fellow student Ilya Yefimovich Repin.

Ivan Kramskoi Russian artist

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi was a Russian painter and art critic. He was an intellectual leader of the Russian democratic art movement in 1860-1880.

It is ironic, but Viktor, whose name is associated with historical and mythological paintings, initially avoided these subjects at all costs. For his graphic composition of Christ and Pontius Pilate Before the People, the Academy awarded a small silver medal to him.

In the early 1870s he executed a lot of engravings depicting contemporary life. Two of them (Provincial Bookseller from 1870 and A Boy with a Bottle of Vodka from 1872) won him a bronze medal at the World Fair in London (1874).

At that period he also started producing genre paintings in oil. Such pieces as Peasant Singers (1873) and Moving House (1876) were warmly welcomed by democratic circles of Russian society.

Paris (1876–1877)

In 1876 Repin invited Vasnetsov to join the Peredvizhniki colony in Paris. While living in France, Viktor studied classical and contemporary paintings, academist and Impressionist alike. At that period, he painted Acrobats (1877), produced prints, and exhibited some of his works at the Salon. It was in Paris that he became fascinated with fairy-tale subjects, starting to work on Ivan Tsarevich Riding a Grey Wolf and The Firebird. Vasnetsov was a model for Sadko in Repin's celebrated painting Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom . In 1877 he returned to Moscow.

Moscow (1877–1884)

In the late 1870s Vasnetsov concentrated on illustrating Russian fairy tales and the epic narrative poem Bylinas, executing some of his best known pieces: The Knight at the Crossroads (1878), Prince Igor's Battlefield (1878), Three princesses of the Underground Kingdom (completed 1884 ), The Flying Carpet (1880), and Alionushka (1881).

These works were not appreciated at the time they appeared. Many radical critics dismissed them as undermining the realist principles of the Peredvizhniki. Even such prominent connoisseurs as Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov refused to buy them. The vogue for Vasnetsov's paintings would spread in the 1880s, when he turned to religious subjects and executed a series of icons for Abramtsevo estate of his patron Savva Mamontov.

Kiev (1884–1889)

In 1884-1889 Vasnetsov was commissioned to paint frescos in the St Vladimir's Cathedral of Kiev. This was a challenging work which ran contrary to both Russian and Western traditions of religious paintings. The influential art critic Vladimir Stasov labelled them a sacrilegious play with religious feelings of the Russian people. Another popular critic, Dmitry Filosofov, referred to these frescoes as "the first bridge over 200 years-old gulf separating different classes of Russian society".

While living in Kiev, Vasnetsov made friends with Mikhail Vrubel, who was also involved in the cathedral's decoration. While they worked together, Vasnetsov taught the younger artist a great deal. It was in Kiev that Vasnetsov finally finished Ivan Tsarevich Riding a Grey Wolf and started his most famous painting, the Bogatyrs .

In 1885 the painter travelled to Italy. The same year he worked on stage designs and costumes for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Snow Maiden .

Later years (1890–1926)

A revenue stamp of Russia, 1914 Stamps of Moskow Vasnetsov.jpg
A revenue stamp of Russia, 1914

The following two decades were productive for Vasnetsov. He increasingly turned to other media during this period. In 1897 he collaborated with his brother Apollinary on the theatrical design of another Rimsky-Korsakov premiere, Sadko .

At the turn of the century, Vasnetsov elaborated his hallmark "fairy-tale" style of Russian Revivalist architecture. His first acclaimed design was a church in Abramtsevo (1882), executed jointly with Vasily Polenov. In 1894, he designed his own mansion in Moscow. The Russian pavilion of the World Fair in Paris followed in 1898. Finally, in 1904, Vasnetsov designed the best known of his "fairy-tale" buildings — the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery.

Between 1906 and 1911, Vasnetsov worked on the design of the mosaics for Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Warsaw; he was also involved in the design of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Moscow.

In 1912, he was given a noble title by Czar Nicholas II. In 1914, he designed a revenue stamp intended for voluntary collection for victims of World War I.

Even prior to the Russian Revolution, Vasnetsov became active as a regent of the Tretyakov Gallery. He allocated a significant portion of his income to the State Historical Museum, so that a large part of the museum's collection was acquired on Vasnetsov's money. After the October Revolution he advocated removing some of the religious paintings (notably those by Alexander Ivanov) from churches to the Tretyakov Gallery.

In 1915 Vasnetsov participated in the designing of a military uniform for the Victory parade of Russian army in Berlin and Constantinopole. Vasnetsov is credited with the creation of the budenovka (initially named bogatyrka), a military hat reproducing the style of ancient Rus' cone-shaped helmets.

He died in Moscow in 1926.


A minor planet 3586 Vasnetsov, discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Zhuravlyova in 1978 is named after Viktor Vasnetsov and Apollinary Vasnetsov. [3]

In the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age , Vasnetsov's painting of Ivan the Terrible is anachronistically presented as if it already existed in that Tsar's lifetime, and as being sent by Ivan to England when he offers to marry Queen Elizabeth I.

Vasnetsov's grandson was People's Artist of the USSR Andrei Vasnetsov.


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  1. "Васнецов, Виктор Михайлович". Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  2. 1 2 "Богатырь русской живописи". Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  3. Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (5th ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. p. 301. ISBN   3-540-00238-3.
  4. 1 2 A Vasnetsov fresco, St. Vladimir's Cathedral in Kiev.
  5. Оne of Vasnetsov's most famous paintings, depicts mythical Russian knights Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich.