Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov (May 15, 1848, Lopyal, Vyatka Governorate – July 23, 1926, Moscow) was a Russian artist who specialized in mythological and historical subjects. He is considered the co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic nationalistic painting (see also neo-romanticism), and a key figure in the Russian revivalist movement.
Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov was born in a remote village of Lopyal in Russia’s Vyatka Governorate, the second of seven children (his only sister died 4 at months).His father, the philosopher and priest Mikhail Vasilievich Vasnetsov, was a scholar of natural sciences and astronomy. His grandfather was a painter of religious icons. Two of Mikhail Vasnetsov’s six sons, Viktor and Apollinary, became remarkable painters, three became schoolteachers and one a Russian folklorist.It was in Lopyal that Viktor started to paint, mostly landscapes and scenes of village life. Recalling his childhood in a letter to the art critic Vladimir Stasov, Vasnetsov remarked that he’d “lived with peasant children and liked them not as a narodnik (an intellectual) but as a friend”.
From the age of ten, Viktor studied in a religious seminary in Vyatka, moving each summer with his family to various rich merchant villages around Ryabovo. During his years in the seminary years, he worked for in a local icon shop and helped the exiled Polish artist, Michał Elwiro Andriolli paint fresco in Vyatka’s Alexander Nevsky cathedral.
After the seminary, Viktor auctioned off his best paintings to raise the cash he need to finance his move to the Russian capital Saint Petersburg to study art. In August 1867. Viktor tried and failed to enter the notoriously strict and regimented Imperial Academy of Arts. He succeeded one year later in August 1868. For an artist who would become synonymous with Russian history, folklore and mythological painting, for years he avoided these subjects at all costs and concentrated on religious themes. His icon painter grandfather would have been proud. The Academy awarded a small silver medal to him for his epic graphic depiction of Christ and Pontius Pilate Before the People. In the 1870 Victor got back to his roots and began painting contemporary life; towns people, city dwellers and rural peasantry. He stayed in St. Petersburg for nine years between 1867-1876. Then, like so many great artists, he went to Paris.
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