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Ivan Shishkin (1832-98)
A gold-medal winning graduate and later Professor of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, Ivan Shishkin made a unique contribution to Russian art in the form of landscape painting that celebrated nature in all its pure, unadorned beauty. His technical virtuosity and exceptional naturalism led to his being nicknamed "Czar of the forest" by his contemporaries. His most famous landscape paintings include: Winter (1890, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg), Rye (1878, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), Oak Grove (1887, Museum of Russian Art, Kiev), Morning in a Pine Forest (1889, Tretyakov) and Countess Mordvinova's Forest at Peterhof (1891, Tretyakov). Well known for his outstanding draftsmanship as well as his meticulous studies of nature, Shishkin was also a skilled printmaker. Other Russian artists involved in landscape during the same period include Fiodor Vasilyev (18501873), Alexei Savrasov (18301897), Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910), Vasily Polenov (1844-1927), Nikolai Duboskoi (1859-1918), and Isaac Levitan (1860-1900).
Vasily Perov (1833-82)
Pioneer critical realist genre painter.
Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887)
Russia's greatest portraitist.
Konstantin Savitsky (1844-1905)
Critical realism; genre painter.
Ilya Repin (1844-1930)
The greatest Russian painter.
Vasily Surikov (1848-1916)
Russia's greatest history painter.
Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910)
Russian symbolist painter.
Abram Arkhipov (1862-1930)
Genre painter in critical realist style.
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Greatest Russian colourist.
Valentin Serov (1865-1911)
Russia's greatest Impressionist.
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Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin was born into a middle class family. Although he showed an exceptional talent for art from an early age, his family only reluctantly agreed to allow him to become a painter. On graduating from high school, he then spent four years studying at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, after which he enrolled at the Imperial Academy of Arts for another four years, from 1856 to 1860. During his time at the Academy he won a series of awards and, on graduation, he received a Gold Medal (for his work View of Valaam Island, Kukko. 1860, Russian Museum, St Petersburg) plus a scholarship allowing him to study abroad for three years.
Accordingly in 1862 he set off for Europe, where he studied drawing, painting, lithography and etching, mostly in Germany and Switzerland. In 1865, he painted View near Dusseldorf (1865, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg) which gained him full membership of the Imperial Academy of Arts, and which was later displayed at the World Fair in Paris (1867).
On his return to Russia, he became a founder member of the progressive artist group known as The Association of Travelling Art Exhibitions (aka The Wanderers). He also joined the Society of Russian Watercolourists, and participated in exhibitions at the Academy of Arts, the All Russian Exhibition in Moscow (1882) and Nizhny Novgorod (1896), as well as World Fairs in Paris (1867 and 1878), and Vienna (1873). In 1873 he became Professor of Painting at the Imperial Academy - a position he retained until 1898.
Shishkin went on to produce hundreds of landscape paintings - many of which were bought by the Russian art collector Pavel Tretyakov - several thousand studies and drawings, as well as a large number of engravings. Sadly, the success he obtained in his career as an artist was not repeated in his personal life. He married twice but both times his wife died, as did his children. Despite this, he continued painting until the day he died. His last completed work was Mast-Tree Grove (1898, Russian Museum). He passed away in St Petersburg at the age of 66.
Although he painted a relatively narrow range of landscape subjects, Shishkin has maintained his reputation as one of the greatest Russian landscape painters of the 19th century. Unconcerned with narrative, romanticism or interpretation, Shishkin set out simply to reproduce the beauty of nature. His painstaking attention to detail, reinforced by countless analytical studies of natural scenes and objects, (see: Oaks - Evening, above) lent him great authority among his contemporaries in Russian painting of the 19th-century.
Shishkin's scenic paintings hang in all the best art museums across Russia and the Ukraine. In addition to those already cited, here is a short selection of his best known works.
- Beech Forest in Switzerland (1863, Russian
Museum, St. Petersburg
For more biographies, see: Famous