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Nikolai Ghe – Russian painter

Nikolai Ghe. Self-Portrait, 1893

Nikolai Ghe. Self-Portrait, 1893

Nikolai Ghe was a Russian painter and graphic artist, a master of portraits, historical and religious paintings.
Nikolai was born on February 15 (27), 1831 in Voronezh into the family of landowner. His grandfather emigrated from France to Russia at the end of the XVIII century and in French, his name was written Gay. The mother of the future artist died of cholera three months after the birth of her son. Early childhood Nikolai spent in the village and in 1841 he was sent to Kiev, where he entered the First Kiev Gymnasium. Later Nikolai moved to St. Petersburg, where his elder brother lived.
In 1850 Ghe entered the Imperial Academy of Arts. His favorite artist was Karl Briullov.
In 1855 Nikolai received a small gold medal for his work Achilles mourns Patroclus. His work Saul with the Medium at Endor was awarded a Grand Gold Medal in 1857. Then the artist moved to Europe.

In 1856, Nikolai married Anna Petrovna Zabela.
The young artist visited Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy. In Rome, he met Alexander Ivanov, whose work had a “very profound impact on Ghe”. In 1860 he left Rome and moved to Florence.
In 1861, Ghe began to paint The Last Supper, and in 1863 brought it to St. Petersburg. The picture was shown at the autumn exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts. It made a strong impression on the audience. The picture was bought for the Russian emperor’s private collection and the artist was awarded the title of professor.
Ghe became one of the founders of realist historical painting.
At the beginning of 1864 Ghe returned to Florence, where he painted many sketches of the Gospels. The period wasn’t very successful. The artist came back to Russia at the end of 1869 and took an active part in the organization of the Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions. In 1871 Ghe painted Peter the Great Interrogating the Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich at Peterhof. The picture made a strong impression on his contemporaries and was bought by famous philanthropist and art collector Pavel Tretyakov for his collection.
From 1869 to 1875, Nikolai lived and worked in St. Petersburg. He painted brilliant portraits of famous Russian intellectuals: writer Ivan Turgenev, poet Nikolai Nekrasov, satirist Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, historian Nikolai Kostomarov, sculptor Mikhail Antokolsky and others. Ghe tried his hand at various genres of portrait, historical, religious … Creative dissatisfaction and material hardships made Nikolai leave the capital of the Russian Empire.
In 1875, Ghe left St. Petersburg and moved to Ukraine, where he bought a small farm in Chernigov province.
In 1882, Nikolai met Leo Tolstoy in Moscow, and in 1884 painted his portrait. This was followed by a new series of paintings on religious themes – Exit from the Last Supper (1889), What is truth? (1890), Judas (Conscience) (1891), The Crucifixion.
A year before his death, the artist painted Self-Portrait (1893). It was recognized as one of the best works of the artist.
Nikolai Ghe died on June 1 (13), 1894 in Chernigov province.

Alexander Pushkin in the village of St Michael

Alexander Pushkin in the village of St Michael

Conscience. Judas

Conscience. Judas

Nikolai Ghe – Russian painter