The Russian landscape painter Vasiliev Fyodor Alexandrovich (1850-1873) was a master.
Fyodor Alexandrovich Vasiliev was born on February 22, 1850 in Gatchina (now Leningrad region) to a small postal employee from St. Petersburg’s family. The family relocated to the capital after the boy was born.
The family was impoverished, and at the age of 12, the boy was assigned to the department of St. Petersburg’s main post office. Fyodor’s interest in painting and ability to draw appeared early on, but due to a lack of free time, the boy was forced to engage in his favorite hobby in the evenings and on Sundays. Parents encouraged their son’s hobby, and in 1863 they sent their son, who aspired to be an artist and drew a lot, to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts in St. Petersburg for a Drawing school.
The school, which was founded by the Ministry of Finance at one point, was run by the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts by the 1860s and quickly gained popularity among talented young people from various social strata in St. Petersburg, thanks to the establishment of an art class. Not only I.N.Kramskoy, who enjoyed great love and authority, but also other artists from the group of fourteen Protestants who defiantly left the Academy in 1863, were among the teachers at the time. The signs of change in art were especially visible at the annual academic exhibitions at the time.
Vasiliev’s exceptional abilities were quickly recognized. I.I. Shishkin (1832-1898) — Russian landscape painter, painter, draughtsman and engraver—aquafortist, representative of the Dusseldorf Art School — played an important role in the formation of the young painter.
Vasiliev combined classes at the Drawing School with evening work with the famous Petersburg restorer from the Academy of Arts, P.K. Sokolov, in order to gain practical skills in restoration activities.
Fyodor Vasiliev’s father died unexpectedly in 1865, leaving the fifteen-year-old teenager as the family’s main, and in fact the only, source of income. Premature adulthood shaped the future artist’s character, making him easily vulnerable and exacerbating emotional sensuality, while developing a rare complexity of spiritual organization and increased attention to moral issues in human life.
By the time he graduated in 1867, Vasiliev had met a number of artists and had established himself as one of them. Relationships with I. V. Kramskoy, who looked after him, and I. I. Shishkin, with whom he worked constantly on location, were especially close. Communication and friendship with these wonderful people and artists have become the mainstays of a novice painter’s life and professional universities.
Fyodor Vasiliev worked at Valaam for more than five months in the summer and autumn of 1867, alongside Shishkin, who looked after him and taught him the fundamentals of mastery.
The artist prepared for independent work by spending the summer on Valaam, a small island in Lake Ladoga.
Many sketches and sketches made there, as well as large paintings completed later, “After the Rain”, “Village Yard”, “In the church fence Valaam” (all 1867), clearly demonstrate Fyodor Vasiliev’s lyrical perception of Russian nature. Already in these works, we see the distinct artistic style of a gifted painter. The development of neighboring tones of the color scheme, which resulted in the bright color of the paintings, is its main distinguishing feature. The artist achieved the work’s integrity through the use of a single color reflex. This approach set Vasiliev apart from the majority of traveling artists, who sought visual unity of the picture through careful development of chiaroscuro and struggled with the “artificial” variegation of the emphasized restraint of the overall color scheme.
Shishkin taught Vasiliev to recognize all of nature’s forms, to recognize the design and character of trees and leaves. He instilled in the student a love of careful observation, analysis, and, finally, the creative process itself.
After returning from Valaam, Fyodor Vasiliev decided to show the drawings and sketches he had completed over the summer to the audience and his fellow artists for the first time. They were displayed alongside Shishkin’s works at the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts’ exhibition. “On the island of Valaam. Stones,” one of Vasiliev’s sketches, was purchased by Count P. S. Stroganov, a major patron of the time. He was taken with the seventeen-year-old artist’s work and then closely followed his progress, patronizing the young talent in every way possible.
Fyodor Vasiliev’s mature works were created between 1868 and 1869. Among them, “Village Street,” “After a thunderstorm,” and “The Return of the herd” (all 1868) stand out, as does the painting “Village” (1869).
The young artist went on a trip along the Volga in 1870 with I.E. Repin (1844-1930), an outstanding Russian painter, master of portraits, historical and everyday scenes, and academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts. Vasiliev returned from his trip with a large number of sketches and sketches, as well as two unfinished paintings: “View of the Volga.Barks” and “Volga Lagoons” (both 1870). These works fully demonstrate the artist’s palette’s richness and his truly brilliant perception of color.
It should be noted that Fyodor Vasiliev’s early works are distinguished by a three-planned compositional structure that is skillfully emphasized by color and illumination. The shaded foreground and background are usually separated by an illuminated middle one. Vasiliev deviates from his traditional three-plan scheme in one of his best works, “Thaw” (1871).
Contemporary critics praised the work highly. This deeply emotional painting, tinged with anxiety and hopelessness, earned the author the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts’ first prize. The painting quickly became a fixture in Russian artistic life. Its author’s re-creation, in warmer tones than the original, was displayed at the 1872 World’s Fair in London.
Fyodor Alexandrovich Vasiliev entered the Academy of Fine Arts in 1871, but while working on “Thaw” in the winter of 1870, he caught a bad cold and developed tuberculosis. As a result, the artist had to flee St. Petersburg.
Count P. S. Stroganov suggested that the artist spend the summer of 1871 in his estates in the Kharkov and Voronezh provinces, but he never recovered. The Society for the Encouragement of the Arts funded Fyodor Vasiliev’s trip to Crimea. Fyodor Vasiliev spent the last two years of his life in Yalta, Crimea. He did not immediately appreciate the beauty of the Crimean landscapes, but after a difficult creative search, he eventually found his vision of southern nature, and his deeply lyrical and poetic landscape “In the Crimean Mountains” (1873) is a clear confirmation of this.
In the Crimea, the artist worked long and hard hours, sometimes to the detriment of his treatment. This did not help with recovery and eventually led to a tragic end.
Fyodor Alexandrovich Vasiliev died in Yalta on September 24, 1873, at the age of 23, and was buried in the Polikurovsky cemetery.
Fyodor Alexandrovich Vasiliev lived a short life, but he made a significant contribution to Russian art: he left wonderful images of his native nature, where truthfulness is combined with subtle, soulful lyricism.
A gifted painter has left us with a significant creative legacy. I.E. Repin and I.I. Shishkin admired him, and I.I. Levitan referred to him as his teacher. A truly outstanding evaluation!!