Vasily Pukirev

Ivan the Terrible in the prayer room. Vasily Pukirev
Ivan the Terrible in the prayer room

Artist who created one of the best masterpieces of Russian painting of the everyday genre of all time

Vasily Pukirev (December 1, 1832 – June 1, 1890) – a famous Russian artist of the 19th century, a master of everyday and religious genres. Vasily Pukirev also painted portraits of his contemporaries, icons for monasteries and illustrated literary works. The heroes of the painter’s paintings were most often representatives of the merchant class and peasants. In the biography of the master there were periods of successful creativity, and times of extreme need and poverty.

Vasily Pukirev also devoted a lot of effort to teaching. Together with Alexei Savrasov, he developed the fundamental textbook “Drawing Course”, which until the 1917 revolution was used in all public schools in Russia.

Unequal marriage. Vasily Pukirev
Unequal marriage

Biography of Vasily Pukirev

Vladimirovich Pukirev was born on December 1, 1832 in the family of a serf peasant in the village of Luzhniki, Tula province. From childhood, the boy showed a talent for drawing, and immediately after graduating from elementary school, his parents sent him to study with an icon painter in Mogilev.

Thanks to a happy accident at the age of sixteen, the life of the young man changed dramatically. One of the buyers of icons drew attention to the smart boy and contributed to his admission to the Moscow School of Arts. In this educational institution, Pukirev studied for 11 years, and his mentor was Professor Sergei Zaryanko.

Acceptance of a dowry by painting. Vasily Pukirev
Acceptance of a dowry by painting

Already during his studies, Vasily Pukirev began to paint custom portraits and achieved significant success in painting. At the age of eighteen, he received a diploma as a painting teacher, another 5 years later – the title of a class artist, and in 1860 – an academician.

From that moment on, Pukirev began working as a teacher at his own school, the leadership of which allocated him a state apartment. The master led a modest life on a small salary, and in his free time from his main work he painted pictures.

Player. Vasily Pukirev

And already in 1863, the most significant event took place in the life of the painter. At the Moscow exhibition, his work “Unequal Marriage” made a splash. This piece caused a flurry of publications in the press, most of which were enthusiastic. The St. Petersburg Academy of Arts awarded the master the title of honorary professor, and the painting itself was acquired by the collector Alexander Borisovsky even before the exhibition began. Eight years later, Pavel Tretyakov bought the famous work for his art gallery, where it is still located.

Portrait of M.N. Obleukhova
Portrait of M.N. Obleukhova

creative career was unsuccessful

Unfortunately, in the future, the painter’s creative career was unsuccessful. Immediately after his triumph, Pukirev set off on a long trip to European countries to get acquainted with the works of the best masters of painting. Returning to Russia a year later, Vasily Vladimirovich again took up teaching and painting, but without much success.

The public received the new works of the artist very cool, although they were written in a similar manner to “Unequal Marriage”. In the career of the master, a long streak of creative failures and disappointments began, which lasted until his death. Vasily Pukirev’s attempts to find himself in a new religious genre turned out to be a failure, and in 1873 the 40-year-old teacher was forced to resign from his post at the school due to serious health problems.

Female portrait
Female portrait

The painter, forgotten by all, found himself alone with his problems. Although colleagues at the school achieved the appointment of a meager pension, this money was sorely lacking. In the last years of his life, the talented master made his living by writing icons and illustrations for the works of Russian writers.

In poverty and hardship, Vasily Pukirev died on June 1, 1890 in Moscow. His funeral at the Vagankovskoye cemetery in the capital was modest and imperceptible, only one newspaper published a small note about the artist’s death.

The most famous paintings by Vasily Pukirev

Among the large number of works by the talented Russian artist, a special place is occupied by works of the genre. Among the most famous paintings by Vasily Pukirev are:

Unequal Marriage (1862) is a work that made the young painter famous throughout Russia. The painting, painted on topical and painful topics, made a huge impression on contemporaries and became one of the most recognizable masterpieces of Russian painting.

“In the Artist’s Studio” (1865) – a work in which the artist portrayed buyers of paintings in a very unsightly form. Their serious and arrogant faces contrast strongly with the image of a painter who earns his living by hard work.

The Gambler (1865) is a portrait of a contemporary, mired in the vices of drunkenness and passion, in whose life there is no room for beauty. Only cards and vodka remained the only companions of his worthless existence.

“The Sexton Explains the Last Judgment to the Peasants” (1868) is a work describing the sad fate of the inhabitants of the Russian countryside. Judging by the words of the elder, after death they are not awaiting deliverance from suffering, but a most difficult test that instills awe in their souls.

Railway construction
Railway construction
In the artist's studio
In the artist’s studio
The sexton explains the picture of the Last Judgment to the peasants
The sexton explains the picture of the Last Judgment to the peasants
Gathering Rugi
Gathering Rugi
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