Fyodor Rokotov Russian artist of the 18th century

Portrait of Catherine II. 1780s.
Portrait of Catherine II. 1780s.

Fyodor Rokotov preferred bust portraits. His models seem to be shrouded in haze, smoothly dissolving in a dark shimmering background, facial features are slightly blurred. The artist’s paintings are characterized by interesting color combinations and richness of the palette.

Fyodor Rokotov was a native of Moscow. He was born in 1735 or 1736 in the Vorontsovo estate, which belonged to the princes Repnins.

Portrait of the poet Vasily Ivanovich Maikov
Portrait of the poet Vasily Ivanovich Maikov

Biography of Fyodor Rokotov

Many facts about the artist’s biography are shrouded in mystery, including his social origins. Most researchers believe that Fyodor was a serf, possibly the illegitimate son of Prince Pyotr Repnin, and as a child he received his freedom. In the late 1750s. Rokotov ended up in St. Petersburg, where he quickly settled in court circles. Probably Repnin himself helped him with recommendations, introduced him to Ivan Shuvalov, the favorite of Elizabeth Petrovna, the founder of the Art Academy. At the same time, the young man studied military affairs in the Land Gentry Corps.

Since 1757 the Academy of Arts was located in the Shuvalov house. Fyodor Rokotov studied there with foreign masters of the brush Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain and Pietro Antonio Rotari. The artist created his first known work in 1757 “Portrait of a Young Man in a Guards Uniform”. It is assumed that Fyodor Rokotov depicted himself in the picture. In the same year, the work “The Cabinet of I. I. Shuvalov” was written.

The artist began to regularly receive orders, among them were portraits of members of the imperial family. In 1758, Rokotov depicted the Grand Duke Pyotr Fedorovich on canvas. At the end of the 1750s, Fedor graduated from the Land Gentry Corps and began military service. In 1760 he was enrolled in the Academy of Arts. At first, the painter had to combine creativity with a military career, until he received the rank of captain, which granted the right to nobility. From 1762 Fyodor Rokotov began teaching at the Academy. Its popularity grew, and with it the number of customers. In 1765, for a painting on a mythological subject, a free copy of Luca Giordano’s canvas, the artist was awarded the title of academician.

Portrait of an Unknown Man in a Cocked Hat - 1770
Portrait of an Unknown Man in a Cocked Hat – 1770

In 1766 the painter returned to Moscow.

The ancient capital from the middle of the 18th century became the center of educational thought. The artist became close here with poets and writers, created their portraits. By the end of the 18th century, the master rewrote “all of Moscow”, as his contemporaries testified.

In the 1770s. Fyodor Rokotov turns to a chamber portrait. Many of the characters in his works, Moscow nobles, were inwardly close to the artist. Images of women occupy a special place in the master’s work. These works are more lyric, accurate expression of emotions. In the last years of his life, the painter began to lose his sight, which did not allow him to devote much time to creativity. The master died on December 24, 1808 in Moscow.

Fedor Rokotov. Portrait of Alexei Mikhailovich Obreskov
Portrait of Alexei Mikhailovich Obreskov

The most famous paintings by Fyodor Rokotov

The paintings of Fyodor Rokotov characterize him as an astute psychologist and present to connoisseurs of art images that are attractive in their inner essence. Among the best works the following stand out:

  • “Portrait of Catherine II” (1763) a work created in honor of the coronation of the Empress, became her reference image. Rokotov managed to convey the mind, energy, desire for power of this woman.
  • “Unknown in Pink” (1770s) a kind look and a barely perceptible smile fill the image with gentle charm. The portrait is executed in an exquisite color scheme, built on tints of pink, which creates a shimmering effect.
  • “Portrait of Alexandra Petrovna Struyskaya” (1772) is an image that is called the “Russian Mona Lisa”. Feminine beauty here is unstable, mysterious and unsaid.
  • “Portrait of an Unknown Woman in a White Cap” (1790s) an old woman who has seen a lot and is fed up with life looks at the picture. Her focused and intelligent gaze is completely unkind, and her lips are compressed into an arrogant smile.

The type of portrait created by Rokotov was very popular among his contemporaries and became an entire era in the development of this genre in Russia. But then the artist was undeservedly forgotten. His work was appreciated again only at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Portrait of Count Artemy Ivanovich Vorontsov
Portrait of Count Artemy Ivanovich Vorontsov
Fedor Rokotov. Portrait of Alexander Mikhailovich Rimsky-Korsakov in his youth
Alexander Mikhailovich Rimsky-Korsakov in his youth
Fedor Rokotov. Portrait of Count Grigory Grigorievich Orlov in armor
Portrait of Count Grigory Grigorievich Orlov in armor
Fedor Rokotov. Portrait of N.E. Struisky. 1772
Portrait of N.E. Struisky. 1772
Portrait of A.P. Struyskaya. 1772
A.P. Struyskaya. 1772
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