Surikov paintings, without exaggeration, are the most recognizable of all Russian paintings.

Surikov comes from the Cossacks, who came to conquer Siberia. Harshness and cruelty of Siberian customs influenced Surikov.

Kuznetsov’s Help

After the death of his father Surikov supported his family –worked as a scribe. Surikov drawings attracted the attention of the governor Zamyatin. But only help from an art aficionado P. Kuznetsov allowed Surikov to take a long journey from Krasnoyarsk to St. Petersburg (2 months) to enroll in the Academy of arts. Surikov enrolled in the Academy, and in 1870created his first painting.

Surikov Choice

At the Academy among graduated students each year a competition for a Big gold medal took place. Winning a medalgave the right to go abroad. Vasily Surikov started his work.

However, according to an outstanding teacher Chistyakov, “antediluvian panel members failed the best student in the entire Academy, Surikov.”

Later, Surikov was allowed as an exceptiona trip abroad, but instead he asked to be allowed to paint the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (it was destroyed in 1931 during the period of Stalinism). This project “to order” gave Surikov financial independence.

Images of Russian History

Upon arrival to Moscow it seemed that the walls of this ancient city spoke with Surikov.

“When I have conceived them [streltsy], I immediately saw all of their faces.”

V. Surikov

Surikov created “Morning of Strelets’execution.” Streltsy, who at one point had enough power to change Russian tsarson the throne, in this painting do not complain about the failure of the rebellion, which was supposed to displace Peter I, but accept their fate with dignity. At the same time, the characters of the people in the crowd are not as still.

Vasily Surikov-Morningof Strelets' execution

Morningof Strelets` execution (1878-1881)

The picture was bought by Pavel Tretyakov (Russian millionaire and philanthropist, founder of Tretyakov Gallery) right at the exhibition.

Ecclesiastical reforms of Nikon in the middle of the 17th century were not all accepted by everyone in Russia, and a split takes place. Those who didn’t acceptthe innovation were called the Old Believers, and their chief ideologist was a protopope Avvakum (later burned). One of the known associates of Avvakum was Boyar Morozova. She, like the rock, is in the center of the composition of another painting by Surikov, and around her there are fireworks of emotions that she evokes in others.

Vasily Surikov-Boyar Morozova

Boyar Morozova (1887)

Having gone through a personal drama, Surikov using his childhood memories paints “Taking of a snow town” –here you get the traditions of Maslenitsa, and a fist fight, and Russian enthusiasm…

Vasily Surikov-Taking of a snow town

Taking of a snow town (1891)

Legendary Cossack Ataman Ermak managed to attach Western Siberia to Russia in the middle of the 16thcentury. Ermak managed to make his troops even more agile than the khans. In his painting Surikov celebrates the courage of Russians.

“Two elements come together.”

V. Surikov

Vasily Surikov-Conquest of Siberia by Ermak

Conquest of Siberia by Ermak (1895)

Unrivaled Swiss campaign of Alexander Suvorov (1799) is reflected in another painting by Surikov. This is a continuation of his theme of military heroism. To work on the painting Surikov visited those places in Switzerlandwhere the famous Suvorov campaign took place.

“Selfless courage – obedient to the word commander are going.”


Vasily Surikov-Suvorov Crossing the Alps

Suvorov Crossing the Alps (1899)

The leader of the largest uprising in Russia before Peter (1670-71), Stepan Razin, became the focal point of the last big painting by Surikov. This canvas embodies the legend of the freemen of Stepan Razin.

Vasily Surikov-Stenka Razin

Stenka Razin (1906)

Surikov Portraits

Vasily Surikov also created a large number of portraits. They are simple in composition, but at the same time these amazing portraits perfectly depict a person himself, his character.

Vasily Surikov-Self-Portrait

Self-Portrait (1913)

Vasily Surikov-A man with a sore hand

A man with a sore hand (1913)

Very interesting are female portraits by Surikov.

Vasily Surikov-Townswoman. Portrait of Alexandra Ivanovna Emelyanova, born Schrader

Townswoman. Portrait of Alexandra Ivanovna Emelyanova, born Schrader (1902)

Vasily Surikov-Portrait of E.N. Sabashnikova

Portrait of E.N. Sabashnikova (1907)

Vasily Surikov-Siberian woman

Siberian woman (1909)

You can get acquainted with the creative work of Surikov at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as in the State Tretyakov Gallery.


To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

In the section “Images of Russian History” we used some materials by A. Dmitrienko.

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