Fedor Tolstoy – Russian painter
Count Fedor Tolstoy (1783 – 1873) was a Russian sculptor, painter, printmaker, and medal-designer, one of the most influential figures in Russian Art.
Fedor was born in St. Petersburg into the family of the head of the War Commissariat. His parents wanted their son to become a military man and sent him to the Polotsk Jesuit College and then to the Naval Corps. While studying at the Naval Corps he began to attend the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. Soon Tolstoy retired from the service and gave up his military career.
A quite unusual aspect of his early period was his wax portraits—small profile representations executed in fairly low relief in light-colored, yellow or rose wax on a black board or glass.
In 1806 the Emperor Alexander I sent the young artist to work in the Hermitage and in 1809 Fedor worked in the coin department. His first medal, In Memory of Chatsky’s Educational Work, which conformed to the best traditions of classicism, appeared in 1809. In the same year he became an honorary member of the Academy of Arts.
He created a series of medallions on themes from the 1812 War against Napoleon and became really famous. His medallions became widely known not only in Russia, but also abroad, and Tolstoy was elected as a member to almost all the European academies of arts.
In 1818 Tolstoy joined a secret society—the Union of Prosperity and became its leader. He was most active in his attempts to achieve freedom for the Ukrainian poet T. G. Shevchenko.
He was an ardent admirer of ancient Greece, which from the early years he studied in its history and works of art.
An important place in his artistic legacy is occupied by his illustrations to Ippolit Bogdanovich’s poem Dushenka (Psyche). For thirteen years he worked on these drawings (1820-33), which were later used to make engravings.
Tolstoy was also renowned as a designer of sets for ballets and operas.
In the history of Russian art Count Tolstoy takes one of the most prominent places, not only as a talented, educated and versatile artist, but as a person, who elevated the value of the artistic profession in the eyes of society and promoted the development of young artists.
Fyodor Tolstoy died on 13 April 1873, at the age of ninety. His life was long and industrious, and he left a glowing legacy.