Russian sculptor who loved his Motherland very much, but lived almost his entire life away from it
Mark Antokolsky (October 21, 1843 June 26, 1902) is a famous Russian sculptor of the 19th century, an outstanding representative of the realistic style in Russian art. Mark Antokolsky devoted most of his career to embodying real characters in Russian history in marble, plaster and bronze and achieved wide recognition at a young age. His work was highly appreciated not only in Russia, but also abroad, the artist was elected a member of many European art academies, and the master’s biography contains many outstanding achievements and interesting facts.
Mark Antokolsky was also a very successful writer. He often wrote journalistic articles on the development of the fine arts, and shortly before his death published a novel describing real events in the life of Jews in the Russian Empire.
Biography of Mark Antokolsky
Mark Matveyevich Antokolsky (real name Mordukh Matysovich) was born on October 21, 1843 in Vilnius. His parents were deeply religious people, they raised all their eight children in the best traditions of the Jewish faith. Since childhood, the boy was fond of drawing and devoted all his free time to his favorite pastime, painting the walls and furniture in the house with intricate patterns and pictures.
Despite the father’s negative attitude towards art, the parents nevertheless decided to develop their son’s creative abilities and sent him to study with a local woodcarver. Soon rumors about the young apprentice spread throughout the city and Anastasia Aleksandrovna Nazimova, the wife of the Vilna governor-general, found out about him. It was thanks to her patronage that in 1862 Mark became a free student at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, and got the opportunity to study sculpture at a professional level.
Already in 1864, the young sculptor received his first academic medal for the sculpture “The Miser”. At the early stage of his creative work, Mark Antokolsky mainly created works on Jewish themes, but during his studies he became seriously carried away by Russian history, after which his passions changed dramatically.
Sculpture Ivan the Terrible
In 1870, the master made a sculptural composition “Ivan the Terrible” from bronze, which instantly brought him wide fame. This work really liked the sister of Emperor Alexander II, Maria Nikolaevna, the current President of the Academy of Arts. The Grand Duchess told the Russian Tsar about the young sculptor and his masterpiece, after which the all-powerful monarch bought Ivan the Terrible for 8,000 rubles. In addition, Antokolsky was awarded the titles of academician and honorary citizen.
The money earned helped the artist to arrange his personal life. Having become a wealthy and famous person, he immediately acquired half of a luxurious house in his native Vilnius and married the beautiful Elena, daughter of a local merchant Judelis Apatovas. Together with his wife, Mark Antokolsky went abroad in 1871 first he visited Rome, and then firmly settled in Paris. Until the early 1880s, he constantly came to Vilnius with his family for summer holidays, but later, due to health problems, he had to give up such trips and every summer he rested in Italian or German resorts.
Although from the beginning of the 1870s Mark Antokolsky lived in France most of the time, he never lost touch with his Motherland: he constantly fulfilled orders for the royal family and the Russian Academy of Arts, wrote articles for domestic magazines, and in St. personal exhibitions of his works.
The artist’s family life was successful.
In marriage, he had two lovely daughters, who later married very successfully: one for an English lord, and the other for an Italian count. Both of them did not harbor warm feelings for Russia and lived their whole lives away from it.
But their father always remained a Russian artist in his soul and even bequeathed to bury himself in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the brilliant sculptor suffered from chronic stomach ulcers for many years and lived for only 58 years. On June 26, 1902, Mark Antokolsky died suddenly in the German resort town of Bad Homburg vor der Höhe from an exacerbation of the disease. The master’s body was taken to St. Petersburg in a special carriage and buried with great honors at the Preobrazhensky cemetery.
The most famous works of Mark Antokolsky
The famous Russian artist left many wonderful sculptural works to descendants. And yet, the most famous works of Mark Antokolsky are:
- The Miser (1868) is a small high relief made of ivory and wood by a master. For this work, the artist received not only a well-deserved award from the Academy, but also on the personal order of the emperor became a scholar of a higher educational institution.
- Ivan the Terrible (1870) is a masterpiece that made the young author famous throughout the Russian Empire. The author portrayed the all-powerful king in the image of an old man who is wise in life, who, in spite of everything, firmly clings to the throne and instills fear in his subjects.
- “Monument to Peter I” (1872) a statue of the great Russian emperor, created by the master specially for the palace in Peterhof. Subsequently, the artist made two more bronze copies of this work, which were installed in Arkhangelsk and Taganrog. “Nestor the Chronicler” (1890) a sculptural image of an ancient Russian monk, the author of the famous “Tale of Bygone Years”. This work of the artist was immortalized by the Central Bank of Russia in a commemorative coin issued in 2016 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Russian Historical Society.
Mark Antokolsky was a unique sculptor in the history of Russian art.
Being a Jew by birth and having lived most of his life abroad, he always remained a Russian artist and dearly loved his homeland.