Anton Losenko – founder of Russian historical painting
Anton Losenko was a Russian painter of Ukrainian origin, the founder of Russian historical painting.
Anton was born on July 30 (August 10), 1737 into a Cossack family in the town of Glukhovo near Chernigov. In 1744 (after the death of his parents) the boy joined the court choir and was sent to St. Petersburg. Seven-year old Anton sang chants and new concerts at the court of Empress Elizabeth and played the flute. The talented boy also studied painting.
In 1753 Losenko lost his voice and became a student of famous painter Ivan Argunov. And in the next year his pictures were shown to the Empress Elizabeth. As proof of Losenko’s success, Argunov showed his picture Tobias and the Angel and his portrait of the court musician V. Stepanov, drawn from life. At the end of 1760 Anton went to Paris.
At the end of December 1762 Losenko came to St. Petersburg and showed the picture The Miraculous Catch of Fish painted in Paris. The picture was bought for the Hermitage and Losenko was given permission to continue his studies in Paris.
In Moscow the artist painted a portrait of Fyodor Volkov, creating one of the best works of Russian portraiture of the mid – eighteenth century. F.G. Volkov, founder of the Russian National Theatre, was not only a wonderful tragic actor, but also an extraordinary painter, a talented musician and poet.
On July 29, 1763 Anton left St. Petersburg and went to Paris again. There his drawings on themes from classical mythology were awarded gold medals.
In 1765, Losenko was awarded a silver medal.
On December 1, 1765 Losenko left Paris and went to Rome. In the spring of 1769 the artist returned to Russia. His best works—Cain, Abel, Justice (based on Raphael) —were given the highest of praise.
For the picture Vladimir and Rogneda the artist received the title of Academician and five days later he became a professor. Vladimir and Rogneda started the national historical theme in Russian art. Moreover, it set a precedent for the interpretation of historical events from a moral position which corresponded to the most progressive views in Russian society, condemning tyranny and violence.
He prepared the first Russian art textbook: Exposition of the Proportions of Man, Based upon Reliable Study of the Proportions of Ancient Statues, . . . for the Use of Young People Learning the Art of Drawing. He first laid the foundations of pedagogical skills, leaving a cohort of students and followers.
His last picture The Farewell between Hector and Andromache (1773) was the first example of classical Russian art.
Losenko died of dropsy on November 23, 1773 and was buried in the Smolensk cemetery at the Church of the Annunciation.
He was the first Russian artist who achieved European recognition and glorified Russian art.