Alexei Venetsianov – Russian painter
Alexei Venetsianov (1780-1847) was a Russian painter, master of genre scenes of peasant life, teacher, member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, the founder of the so-called Venetsianov School. He was one of the founders of the Russian genre painting.
Great-grandfather of the artist Fyodor Proko, his wife Angela and their son George left Greece and came to Russia in 1730-1740.
Alexei was born on February 7 (18), 1780 in Moscow. His family was engaged in trade, they sold currant bushes, tulip bulbs, as well as paintings. Alexei studied painting at first alone, then with V. Borovikovsky. The first paintings were portraits of the artist’s family and friends.
In 1807 he came to St. Petersburg and began to take painting seriously.
In 1808, Venetsianov published the Journal of the Caricatures which was soon banned.
In 1811 Venetsianov was awarded the title of academician for his portrait of an Inspector of the Academy of Arts Cyril Golovachevsky. He painted him surrounded by three boys who symbolized the painting, sculpture and architecture, “the three most noble art”.
During the Patriotic War of 1812, Venetsianov together with Ivan Terebenyov created caricatures of the French nobility and Francophile.
In 1819 he left the service and settled with his family (his wife Martha and two daughters, Alexandra and Felitsata) in Tver province. The artist founded his own art school where more than 70 people studied. Venetsianov exhibited their works at the academic exhibitions. The artist was inspired by peasant scenes. He was fascinated by the common people, by serfs and peasants who had heroically fought Napoleon’s troops and who retained their human dignity and nobility despite the yoke of serfdom.
One of Venetsianov’s most poetic works, full of serenity and peace, and love of man and nature, is the small painting Sleeping Shepherd-Boy (1823-26). Alexei painted many portraits of peasant girls—A Peasant Girl, Peasant Girl with Mushrooms in the Wood, Pelageya (1820s), Girl with Embroidery, Peasant Girl with Cornflowers (1830s) and others.
In 1829 Alexei received the title of court painter.
Venetsianov is an author of theoretical articles and notes: The secret of Lipmanovsky paintings, Something about the future.
Venetsianov was killed in an accident while traveling to Tver on December 4 (16), 1847. He was buried in the village cemetery of the village Dubrovsky (now Venetsianov), Tver province.
Venetsianov’s importance in the history of Russian art is extremely great. He was one of the first artists who dedicated themselves to the portrayal of the peasantry and who declared genre painting to be a fully-fledged, important sphere of art.