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5 Famous Russian Portrait Painters

Vladimir Borovikovsky. Portrait of Maria Lopukhina

Russian portraitist with a peculiar technique Vladimir Borovikovsky would have remained an average artist, if not for the journey of the Russian Empress Catherine II in 1787 to the Crimea.

Borovikovsky was invited to paint the chambers of the Empress were she was expected to stay. The talent of the artist was noticed and he was invited to St. Petersburg.

Borovikovsky took full advantage of the opportunity that the capital offered with regards to be taught by renowned artists. In four decades of hard work in St. Petersburg Borovikovsky created hundreds of paintings.

One of the artist’s paintings in lyrical style, which was common to Borovikovsky, was a portrait of Maria Lopukhina. It was a very young, but certainly sad 18 year old woman. Borovikovsky managed to convey her inner world beautifully.

The fate of the model was tragic – she died from tuberculosisjust a few years after she posed for Borovikovsky. But her image remained. Poet Polonsky many years later dedicated to her the following lines:

“She is long gone, and those eyes are no more (…)

But her beauty was saved by Borovikovsky.”

Vladimir Borovikovsky Portrait of Maria Ivanovna Lopukhina, oil on canvas (1797)

Portrait of Maria Ivanovna Lopukhina, oil on canvas (1797)

Vasily Tropinin. Portrait of Alexander Pushkin

Russian portrait painter Vasily Tropinin was a serf, and he only got his freedom when he was 47 years old. Tropinin secretly attended the Academy of Fine Arts as an external student. Portraits by Tropinin became very successful during the lifetime of the Artist.

The portrait of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was commissioned by the poet himself. Pushkin himself posed for the Russian portrait painter. Pushkin intended this painting as a gift to his friend, poet Sobolev, to whom he later presented the work of Tropinin.

Pushkin is depicted wearing a robe. But it’s not a home portrait. The face of the poet is not relaxed, but it is focused and spiritual. The robe was meant to emphasize the freedom of the poet.

Vasily Tropinin Portrait of A.S. Pushkin, oil on canvas (1827)

Portrait of A.S. Pushkin, oil on canvas (1827)

Ilya Repin. Portrait of the Composer M.P. Mussorgsky

One of the greatest Russian artists, Ilya Repin, was a friend of the composer Mussorgsky. In 1881Ilya Repin found out that Mussorgsky was seriously ill. Repin immediately went to St. Petersburg (remember that there were no “Sapsans” – 4 hours between St. Petersburg and Moscow?).

In St. Petersburg Repin immediately went to the Nicholaevsky Military Hospital. And he saw the composer, Mussorgsky. Mussorgsky was just feeling better, he was in remission. Mussorgsky even began making plans in terms of future musical works. Repin literally in the course of four days painted a portrait of Mussorgsky and returned to Moscow.

But upon his arrival home he received bad news: Mussorgsky, his beloved friend, had died.

Everyone who knew Mussorgsky, were shocked how well Repin managed to convey the character of the composer.

Ilya Repin Portrait of the composer M.P. Mussorgsky, oil on canvas (1881)Portrait of the composer M.P. Mussorgsky, oil on canvas (1881)

Ivan Kramskoy. Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Russian portrait painter Ivan Kramskoy learned to paint on his own. In his youth Kramskoy got a job in a photo studio where he was engaged in retouching photographs. Then he enrolled in the Academy of Arts and … he left it. Kramskoy and other young artists protested against the conservatism of the Academy. Young artists organized a new movement, “The Wanderers”, as a form of a democratic artistic culture. Kramskoy was a chief ideologist of this movement and the main center of influence.

The painting by Kramskoy “Portrait of an unknown woman”, immediately attracted the attention with his skill and mystery.

It is still unknown who was the lady that posed for Kramskoy; there is not a single mention of her in the papers of Kramskoy.

Ivan Kramskoy Portrait of an unknown woman, oil on canvas (1883)

Portrait of an unknown woman, oil on canvas (1883)

Valentin Serov. Portrait of the Artist Isaac Levitan

Russian portrait painter Valentin Serov created a portrait of the artist Isaak Levitan in somber earth tones.

The color scheme was designed to emphasize the immersion of Levitan inside of himself so as to better experience the beauty of Russian nature.

In the eyes of Levitan you can see sadness, and his experiences – the fate of the outstanding Russian artist was not easy.

But even the sadness in the eyes of Levitan is noble. It is not just from his life experiences, it is necessary for Levitanto pass it on to his canvases.

At that time lyrical, romantic notes were still popular in Russian culture. But the image of Levitan was not simply a tribute to fashion; Levitan was actually the kind of person as Serov saw him.

Valentin Serov Portrait of the artist Isaac Levitan, oil on canvas (1893)

Portrait of the artist Isaac Levitan, oil on canvas (1893)

Of course, this list of great Russian portrait painters is not limited to the ones we described here.

 

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