Viktor Vasnetsov – Great Russian Painter
Viktor Vasnetsov was a Russian painter and architect, master of historical and folk art. His younger brother was the artist Apollinaris Vasnetsov.
Viktor was born on May 3 (15), 1848 in the Russian village in the Vyatka province into a family of Orthodox priest Mikhail Vasilievich Vasnetsov. From his earliest years Vasnetsov heard folk legends and epic tales about the Russian heroes – bogatyrs. The boy studied at a religious school (1858-1862), then in the Vyatka Theological Seminary. At the seminary, the boy spent every minute to draw.
Viktor moved to St. Petersburg and entered the Academy of Fine Arts. At the Academy he made friends with Repin, Antokolsky, Kramskoi and Stasov.
In 1876 Vasnetsov went abroad and settled in the outskirts of Paris, where he did a lot of work from nature.
In 1878, the artist came back to Russia and moved with his family to Moscow. Here he turned to new subjects—the Russian folk epic, the fairy-tale, and Russian history. In Moscow Vasnetsov got to know the family of a famous art patron, the rich industrialist Savva Mamontov. Viktor and many other artists spent time at Abramtsevo, Mamontov’s estate near Moscow. In 1881 at Abramtsevo Vasnetsov painted one of his best works, Alenushka. There the artist helped to produce sets for an amateur production in 1881 of a play based on the fairy-tale The Snow Maiden. The actors were the members of Mamontov’s circle, and Vasnetsov played the part of Frost.
Viktor created frieze The Stone Age for the Moscow Historical Museum.
Vasnetsov was invited to help decorate the recently built St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev. He covered the walls of the Cathedral with ornamental decorations in which fantastic flowers and strange animals were interwoven in whimsical, colorful patterns.
The picture Ivan the Terrible appeared at the Tenth Peredvizhniki Exhibition in 1897. At his first personal exhibition in 1898 Vasnetsov presented Bogatyrs, on which he had worked for about twenty years. The artist recreated the images of the three favorite heroes of the Russian folk epic: Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich. In 1898 Bogatyrs appeared in the Tretyakov Gallery.
Viktor Vasnetsov died on July 23, 1926 in his studio in Moscow while working on a portrait of the artist Mikhail Nesterov. The artist was buried at Lazarevskoye cemetery, later his remains were moved to Vvedenskoe cemetery.