Fedor Alexandrovich Vasiliev is a famous Russian landscape painter, like a comet in the firmament of Russian painting. His bright talent aroused general interest and admiration, but quickly faded. Vasiliev was 23 years old when he died of consumption.
The young artist devoted himself to art with all his passion, not knowing what absent-mindedness and indifference are. Contemporaries compared him with Mozart and Pushkin in the world of painting. After 170 years, his work is also highly valued: 39 paintings by the artist are kept in the Tretyakov Gallery and 27 in the State Russian Museum.
Biography of Fedor Vasiliev
Fedor Vasiliev was born on February 10, 1850 in the family of a petty postal clerk from St. Petersburg. Due to the constant lack of money, the future artist worked at the post office at the age of 12. He devoted every free minute to drawing and once left work for the sake of serious study: he got a job as an assistant restorer, and in the evenings began to attend the school of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists.
At the age of 15, the young man lost his father and became the eldest man in a family with three more children. He took on any work in the workshop, but continued to study at an art school. Soon his work interested Ivan Shishkin, who introduced him to the members of the Artel of Artists. The artel was headed by Ivan Kramskoy – with his help and with the participation of Shishkin, Vasiliev continued to improve his skills.
In 1867, Vasiliev finished his studies and spent the summer with Shishkin on the island of Valaam. From this trip, he brings the first significant paintings, one of which is acquired by count-philanthropist Sergei Stroganov. Vasiliev spent the next summer in the village with relatives, where he invited Shishkin. The result was the creation of several more landscape works and the wedding of Shishkin with Fyodor’s sister Evgenia. Unfortunately, she only survived her brother by a year.
In 1869, Fyodor Vasilyev accepted the invitation of Count Stroganov to visit his southern estates. The artist fell in love with the steppe, painted pictures with views of villages and roads, paying great attention to the sky and clouds. During this trip, more than 30 works were drawn.
The painting “Thaw” and the artist’s illness
In the spring of 1871, Fyodor Vasiliev completed the painting “The Thaw”, put it up for the competition of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists and won first place. Shishkin then said that the student had surpassed him. Pavel Tretyakov purchased the painting, the heir to the throne ordered a copy, and the author received the title of artist of the 1st degree. Also, the author’s copy was presented at the World Exhibition of 1872 in London. But the artist paid dearly for this success: drawing from life in cold and damp, he fell ill with consumption.
To improve his health, the painter went to the southern estate of Count Stroganov, and then to the Crimea. This trip was paid for by the Society for the Encouragement of Artists. In the Crimea, Vasiliev missed his native places. Here he painted from memory several beautiful northern landscapes – “Wet Meadow”, “Swamp in the Forest. Autumn” and “Morning”.
Since 1872, the artist became interested in Crimean landscapes, including seascapes. Despite the illness, he continued to work hard, which did not contribute to recovery. On October 6, 1873 he died and was buried in Yalta. Soon an exhibition organized by the comrades took place. Funds from the sold works became compensation for the Society for the Encouragement of Artists and Tretyakov for paid, but unfinished paintings. Some of the works were bought by Empress Maria Alexandrovna.
Fedor Vasiliev worked as an independent artist for less than six years.
In this short period of time, he created about a hundred masterpieces and took his place among the best Russian landscape painters.