Peter Fedorovich Sokolov (born 1791 died August 3, 1848) was a Russian painter of the first half of the 19th century who became the founder of the genre of watercolor portraiture in Russia. The work of Pyotr Sokolov reflected the aesthetics of the Pushkin era, which is called the golden age of Russian culture. The paintings of this watercolorist represent an extensive portrait gallery of the author’s contemporaries, including members of the imperial house, writers, poets and Decembrists.
Biography of Peter Fedorovich Sokolov
Peter Fedorovich Sokolov was born in 1791 in Moscow. His childhood was dysfunctional: the initially wealthy father lost all his property at cards and died when his son was less than a year old. Left alone, the mother of the future artist lived very poorly. In 1800 she moved to St. Petersburg in the hope of finding a place for her son to study at public expense. The school at the Imperial Academy of Arts accepted gifted boys free of charge, and a familiar official helped to take advantage of this opportunity.
Pyotr Fedorovich Sokolov entered the class of historical painting, which was considered the best in the Academy. Karl Bryullov and his brothers studied at the same time. The training lasted ten years. In 1809, the graduation work “Andromache mourning the murdered Hector” was written, which received a small gold medal. Such a medal did not give the right to a paid trip to Europe, and Sokolov decided to stay at the Academy for another year to try again. But he could not get into the ranks of the best, because his talent did not gravitate towards large-scale paintings on historical and mythological themes.
In 1810, Sokolov graduated with the title of artist of the 14th class. Soon he began to earn money by private lessons and creating portraits. His early works were graphic written in sanguine or Italian pencil. As soon as the portrait painter mastered the watercolor technique sufficiently, success came to him very quickly. There were many customers in St. Petersburg, Moscow and other cities. Sometimes they waited for their turn for a month.
Delicate and airy images created by this artist delighted Russian society.
An important advantage of watercolor painting was that it did not require long and tedious posing.
The invitation of Peter Sokolov to noble weddings has become a glorious tradition. One of the clients joked that without the talented hand of this painter, the marriage would be invalid, as without a priest. In 1821 he was offered to paint a portrait of Prince Alexander Nikolaevich, the future Alexander II, at the age of three. The work turned out to be successful, and new orders from the imperial family followed. After the Decembrist uprising, the artist painted portraits of many of its participants and their wives. Some of the works went to Siberia together with the exiles.
Peter Sokolov lived most of his life in St. Petersburg, but he often visited Moscow and in 1846 moved there completely. The painter’s vision began to deteriorate with age, but he continued to carry out numerous orders. Once he went to the estate of Olga Orlova-Davydova near Kharkov and ended up in a cholera epidemic zone. There the artist died on August 3, 1848.
Peter Sokolov was married to the younger sister of Karl Bryullov, Yulia. The family had four sons. One of them died as a child, and three Peter, Pavel and Alexander also became famous artists. The preserved creative heritage of Pyotr Fedorovich includes more than 500 works, which are now exhibited in leading museums in Russia, including the State Russian Museum, the Hermitage and the Tretyakov Gallery.
The most famous paintings by Peter Fedorovich Sokolov
The paintings of Pyotr Fedorovich Sokolov are distinguished by their subtle and light manner of writing. Portraits look vivid and natural, although they are not overly detailed, and the color scheme is rarely vibrant and multicolored.
Here are some of the artist’s famous watercolors:
- “Portrait of Sergei Grigorievich Volkonsky” (1817). For this work, the famous Decembrist posed even before the well-known events of his life joining the “Union of Prosperity”, meeting Pushkin, the uprising on Senate Square and exile to Siberia.
- “Portrait of Elena Grigorievna Chertkova”, nee Baroness Stroganova (1820s). For a long time it was believed that this watercolor depicts Idalia Poletika the illegitimate daughter of Count Stroganov, who organized a meeting between Dantes and Pushkin’s wife Natalie. Modern researchers believe that this is her half-sister Elena Grigorievna.
- “Portrait of Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky” (1820s). The romantic poet posed for Sokolov several times. The version from the collection of the V.A.Tropinin Museum is considered the earliest.
- “Portrait of an Unknown Woman in a Crimson Hat” (1828). It has been suggested that this lady is the wife of the poet Fyodor Tyutchev, but now it has been refuted. Perhaps the portrayed is Baroness Alexandra Nikolaevna de Malvirad.
- “Portrait of Alexander Pushkin” (1836). Soon after they met, Alexander Sergeevich ordered three portraits from Sokolov at once for gifts to his friends.