Orest Kiprensky – master of portrait
Orest Kiprensky (1782 – 1836) was a Russian painter, a master of portrait. He was the first Russian portraitist of the XIX century.
Orest, the illegitimate son of a landowner A. Dyakonov, was born on March 13 (24), 1782 in Petersburg Gubernia. According to the documents he became a member of serf Adam Schwalbe’s family.
In 1788 he received freedom and entered the school at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts under the name Kiprensky. He studied at the Academy until 1803.
In 1804 Kiprensky painted one of his most talented works—a portrait of his father, Adam Schwalbe. In 1830 it was displayed at an art exhibition in Naples. Some considered the portrait of his father a Rubens masterpiece, others thought it was a Van Dyck.
The artist won his first gold medal in 1805 for the historical canvas Dmitri Donskoi on Sustaining Victory over Mamai. Kiprensky was a romantic artist.
Orest lived in Moscow (1809), Tver (1811), St. Petersburg (1812), and in 1816-1822, and since 1828 – in Rome and Naples.
On 27 February 1809 Kiprensky went to Moscow, where he was to help Ivan Martos complete his work on the monument to Minin and Pozharsky.
In March 1812 Kiprensky returned to St. Petersburg. For several of his portraits he was awarded the title of academician of portrait painting.
In mid-May 1816, having received the title of Adviser to the Academy of Arts, he was given state support to travel to Italy thanks to the endeavors of his friends.
His portrait of the poet Alexander Pushkin (1827) was his greatest achievement in the field of portraiture.
Pushkin liked the portrait and dedicated the following lines to Kiprensky:
Loved-one of light-winged fashion—
Though neither French nor English born—
You re-created me, magician,
The crystal muses’ chosen one.
In July 1836 Kiprensky married Maria Falcucci, who was his former pupil and inspiration. She brightened up the last years of his life.
In October 1836 the artist died of pneumonia and was buried in Rome.