15 most famous paintings by Russian artists

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Painting can be called one of the most important components of Russian culture. Majestic landscapes, historical events, portraits of famous personalities and ordinary people, art plots – all this is reflected in the works of outstanding artists. Many of them, thanks to their outstanding talent and hard work, became known not only in their homeland, but also in many other countries of the world. In this selection, we'll take a look at fifteen of the most recognizable masterpieces by Russian painters.

Review of the most famous paintings by Russian artists

Nomination a place Composition rating
Review of the most famous paintings by Russian artists 1 “A Knight at the Crossroads”, Viktor Vasnetsov 5.0
2 “Cossacks”, Ilya Repin 4.9
3 “Horsewoman”, Karl Bryullov 4.9
4 “The Seated Demon”, Mikhail Vrubel 4.8
5 “The Appearance of Christ to the People”, Alexander Ivanov 4.8
6 “Unequal marriage”, Vasily Pukirev 4.7
7 “The Rooks Have Arrived”, Alexey Savrasov 4.7
8 “Hunters at Rest”, Vasily Perov 4.7
9 “Heroes”, Victor Vasnetsov 4.7
10 “Girl with Peaches”, Valentin Serov 4.7
11 “The Last Day of Pompeii” Karl Bryullov 4.6
12 “Barge Haulers on the Volga”, Ilya Repin 4.5
13 “Boyarynya Morozova”, Vasily Surikov 4.5
14 “Unknown”, Ivan Kramskoy 4.5
15 “Morning in a pine forest”, Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky 4.5

“A Knight at the Crossroads”, Viktor Vasnetsov

Rating: 5.0

Knight at the crossroads

The painting “The Knight at the Crossroads” became a turning point in the life of the artist Vasnetsov, determining the further direction of the development of his work. Before that, he was already known as a Wanderer artist, but the success of the canvas prompted him to devote many further works to Russian epic themes. The idea for this painting appeared in the early 1870s, then Vasnetsov, after reading the plot “Ilya Muromets and the Robbers”, created the first sketches. But the final version, which has come down to our time, was completed only in 1882. The knight depicted in the foreground froze in thought in front of a stone, the inscription on which reads: “Like a straight ehati – I never live – there is no way for a passer-by, or a passing person, or a passing one.” The further part of the inscription, saying that “to the right ehati – to be married to being; to the left to ehati – to rich in being” is partly worn out, partly overgrown with moss. So the author of the canvas wanted to figuratively show the hopelessness of the path of the knight, because his fate is only in battles on the battlefield. The overall dramatic nature of the composition is emphasized by the lying remains of another rider and horse, as well as black crows. An interesting detail – the rider holds an infantry spear in his hands, this symbolizes the hero's readiness to fight on foot, even after losing his war horse.

“Cossacks”, Ilya Repin

Rating: 4.9

Cossacks write a letter to the Turkish sultan

Since Ilya Repin was born and raised in Chuguev, Kharkov province, he was keenly interested in the history of Ukraine, its customs, and in particular the Cossacks. Therefore, having heard at a secular reception from the historian Dmitry Yavornitsky about the letter of the Zaporozhye Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan, he immediately decided to capture this event on canvas. According to legend, at the end of the 17th century, after the defeat of the 15,000-strong army of the Turks by the Sich army, Sultan Mahmud IV sent a message to the Zaporozhye Cossacks, in which he called himself “the governor of God” and ordered to surrender voluntarily. In response, the freedom-loving Cossacks, under the leadership of Ataman Ivan Sirko, composed an ironic letter, setting out in it their entire stock of offensive metaphors and obscene language. It is not known whether the great Turkish “brother of the sun and the moon” received this unique work of the epistolary genre, but it will forever remain in history. Before starting work on the painting, Repin went to Ukraine to thoroughly study the culture of the Zaporozhye Sich Cossacks. Thanks to this, both the general atmosphere and individual details, such as weapons and clothing, correspond to the realities of the time described. The artist finished his work in 1891, 13 years after the first pencil sketch. The canvas was purchased for a large sum by Emperor Alexander III, later it received gold awards at exhibitions in Germany and Hungary.

“Horsewoman”, Karl Bryullov

Rating: 4.9

Rider

Karl Bryullov is rightfully considered one of the best representatives of Russian romanticism. His portrait “Horsewoman” delights with detail, ideal proportions, a combination of expression and serenity. The painting was painted in 1832 for Countess Yulia Samoilova, whom Bryullov met in Rome. The girl on the horse and the girl in pink who ran out to meet her are Giovannina and Amatsilia, the Countess's pupils. The artist skillfully conveyed the dynamics of the plot, all the characters on the canvas are in motion. In addition, he deliberately chose contrasting tones, which made it possible to visually emphasize the image of the horsewoman. After the work on the painting was completed, it was presented at an exhibition at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, located in Milan. The Italians were delighted with the creation of the Russian artist, art critics put him on a par with van Dyck and Rubens, saying that the world had never seen such a skillfully executed equestrian portrait. For subsequent years, the painting was in the personal collection of Countess Samoilova, until 1893, when it was bought for the Tretyakov Gallery.

“The Seated Demon”, Mikhail Vrubel

Rating: 4.8

Demon sitting

The image of a sad demon sitting Vrubel was inspired by Lermontov's poem “The Demon”, for the anniversary edition of which the artist created thirty illustrations. The main character of the picture combines tremendous power, emphasized by a muscular tense body, and mental suffering, clearly expressed on his face. Sitting on the top of the mountain, the young giant longingly watches the flaring sunset in the living world, of which he himself is not a part. The demon is surrounded by bizarre rocks and unearthly flowers that look more like crystals. This dead landscape complements the melancholy mood created by the character's image and his backstory, known from the poem. It is curious that the demon is dressed in blue clothes, which are traditionally associated with nobility and divinity; Jesus Christ is often depicted in blue clothes. This color was not chosen by chance, it speaks of the heavenly origin of the hero of the canvas. In the understanding of the author, a demon is not a negative character, but rather a symbol of a rebellious soul that does not find an answer to its doubts. Being not only a talented painter, but also a sculptor, Vrubel created a painting in his favorite faceted style, making it a bit like a stained glass window. To achieve a similar effect, the artist applied large flat strokes using a palette knife.

“The Appearance of Christ to the People”, Alexander Ivanov

Rating: 4.8

The Appearance of the Messiah ', A.A.  Ivanov

Ivanov's fascination with biblical subjects began in the early stages of his work and completely absorbed him after his arrival in Rome. There, the artist studied sacred texts, redrawn the masterpieces of Michelangelo, and increasingly thought about the idea of ​​creating his own canvas, which was to become a means of transmitting Christian ideas through art. Starting work on the painting in 1837, he completed it as much as 20 years later. Ivanov's approach was very innovative for its time, since it implied a departure from the canons of academism and focusing the viewer's attention on the emotional component. For the plot, one of the most important biblical events was chosen, described in the first chapter of the Gospel of John – the first appearance of Christ before believers. In the process of writing his work, the artist made about six hundred sketches, most of them were later sold to museum and private collections. Each character of the canvas was carefully worked out, some of them had real prototypes for the realism of the image. For example, a man with an expressive gaze, standing half a turn to the Messiah, was copied from Nikolai Gogol. The traveler with the staff sitting near John is Ivanov himself. But the basis for the appearance of Jesus was the drawings of the Palermo mosaic, the sculpture of Apollo Belvedere and … a woman's face. After completing the canvas, the artist brought it to St. Petersburg by ship. Interestingly, because of its large size (750 by 540 centimeters), the painting did not fit into the hold and had to be placed right on the deck. Much to Ivanov's disappointment, the work of his entire life did not impress his contemporaries; it was too deep and innovative for that period. However, after the death of the painter, the painting was bought by Emperor Alexander II himself, who later donated it to the Rumyantsev Museum.

“Unequal marriage”, Vasily Pukirev

Rating: 4.7

Unequal marriage ', V.V.  Pukirev

During his life Vasily Pukirev created many paintings in various genres: landscapes, portraits, historical subjects, but only one of the works ensured him universal fame. This is, of course, the painting “Unequal Marriage”, written in 1862. It vividly illuminated the problem of the disenfranchised position of young girls, who were married off by agreement to unloved, but wealthy and, most often, old suitors, which was actual at that time. Almost every second marriage was concluded for reasons of financial gain or position in society. In the picture, the image of the groom contrasts sharply with the portrait of the bride: he looks haughty and cold-blooded, but she barely holds on so as not to cry or faint. In the background, aged men, apparently friends of the groom, unceremoniously look at the bride, clearly approving of the profitable “acquisition.” Particularly noteworthy is a young man standing with crossed arms on the right side, very similar to Pukirev himself. According to contemporaries, the artist drew inspiration from his personal drama, and the prototype for the young bride was Praskovya Varentsova, a girl with whom Pukirev was in love, and who married a wealthy elderly official. Presented at an exhibition in St. Petersburg, the painting on topical themes immediately attracted public attention. Soon for this work, Vasily Pukirev was awarded the title of professor of painting.

“The Rooks Have Arrived”, Alexey Savrasov

Rating: 4.7

The Rooks Have Arrived ', A.K.  Savrasov

As one of the Itinerant artists, Savrasov paid much attention to Russian landscapes in his works. He wrote his famous “Rooks” in 1871, after a trip to the village of Molvitino (now Susanino) in the Kostroma province. It was the Molvitinskaya Voskresenskaya old church (built in the 17th century) that became the prototype of the temple in the picture. The whole plot is extremely uncomplicated, but it perfectly conveys the state of nature preceding the imminent onset of spring in the village. There are no bright colors on the canvas, on the contrary, gray and brown shades prevail, calmness and everyday life reign. The central characters, of course, are rooks, some of them are still in motion, but the rest have already chosen their places in the trees. Returning home rooks – harbingers of warmth. A thawed patch of standing water and the clear blue of the sky, breaking through the clouds, also hints at the spring mood. Depicting rooks, Savrasov deliberately made them a little larger, sacrificing realism for the sake of symbolism. The dark silhouettes of the birds breathe with mysticism, their image involuntarily begs for comparison with the resurrection after the “dead” winter sleep. The religious meaning can be traced in other parts of the canvas: behind the trees there is a willow, whose branches were traditionally used in Russia to celebrate Palm Sunday. In the process of creation, the artist applied a complex painting technique with a combination of various methods of applying paints, applied colored primer, glaze, and so on. The finished painting was immediately acquired by the collector and philanthropist Pavel Tretyakov, who presented it to the general public at an exhibition in Moscow.

“Hunters at Rest”, Vasily Perov

Rating: 4.7

Hunters at a Halt ', V.G.  Perov

This picture was painted by Perov at the stage of his later creative activity, in 1871. At this time, the artist gradually moved away from depicting the difficult peasant life, preferring less pessimistic subjects. The characters on the canvas are three hunters, resting in the middle of the field. The oldest of them, judging by his appearance a nobleman, enthusiastically leads the story, actively gesticulating for greater persuasiveness. The newcomer listens with bated breath, he is so impressed by the hunting tales that he even forgot about the light smoldering in his hand, with which he was going to set fire to a cigarette. A third character, dressed in peasant clothes, listens with an ironic grin and distinct skepticism on his face. Such tales are obviously not new to him for a long time. The background is a plain autumn landscape, which allowed the painter to focus on the main figures of the work. The obvious comic nature of the situation hides a deep meaning: hunters personify the stages of a person's life cycle passing through enthusiastic youth, experienced incredulous maturity and old age, idealizing memories of the past. The author of the canvas, an avid hunter himself, depicted game, weapons, and equipment in detail and accurately. However, a horn intended for hunting with hounds, while the hounds themselves are nowhere to be seen and the forest bird lying together with the hare is perplexing. Everything is simple – in this way Perov makes fun of the knowledgeable viewer, making it clear that he himself, like an elderly storyteller, is not averse to embellishing reality.

“Heroes”, Victor Vasnetsov

Rating: 4.7

Bogatyrs', V.M.  Vasnetsov

The folklore theme was very popular among Russian painters of the second half of the 19th century, but for the majority it became only a separate milestone in their search for their own direction of art, a short-lived hobby. Another thing is Viktor Vasnetsov, who devoted his whole life to expressing Slavic epics and epics on canvas. The pinnacle of his work is the painting “Heroes”, which embodied the whole spirit of the Russian people, as the artist imagined it to be. Beginning with small sketches in 1881, he worked diligently collecting myths, legends, and historical facts bit by bit. The result was a real masterpiece that made Vasnetsov famous for many generations to come. The canvas depicts three horsemen-heroes: in the center is Ilya Muromets, on his right hand is Dobrynya Nikitich, and on the left is Alyosha Popovich. Their images all together embody the creative power of Russia, and the positive qualities of the people living on it. Muromets breathes with wisdom and age-old traditions, Dobrynya embodies the pride of the defender of his native lands, but the young Alyosha Popovich with the harp is poetry, sensitive to any manifestation of beauty. The mighty figures of the knights stand like three mountains, confident and menacing. They scrutinize “whether an insidious enemy is lurking where, or where the weak is offending.” The cloudy sky above their heads and the gray boulders of burial grounds visible in the distance create a feeling of approaching danger. Although the painting itself is a fantasy of the artist, it is worth noting that all elements of clothing, harness and weapons are depicted very faithfully and correspond to the original prototypes of their time. After finishing work on a huge canvas (almost four and a half by three meters), Pavel Tretyakov bought it for his gallery.

“Girl with Peaches”, Valentin Serov

Rating: 4.7

Girl with peaches

Serov painted his most famous painting at the age of 22, and the idea for this portrait came quite by accident when he was visiting Abramtsevo, at the Mamontov estate. The artist had known the owner's daughter Vera Mamontova for a long time, but once he saw this 11-year-old girl sitting at the table with a peach in her hand, he suddenly realized which portrait he wanted to paint and who should become a model. The most difficult thing was to persuade a restless child to pose every day in the summer, and not a day or two, because it took a couple of months to create the canvas. The result is a lively and vivid image that makes a deceptive impression of a randomly chosen moment from everyday life, as if the girl sat down at the table for just a minute. The boring background of the environment contrasts with the girl's swarthy and ruddy face, her pink clothes, on which a large bow flaunts. Working on the portrait, Serov used the techniques of impressionism, which allowed him to fill the picture with light, make it warm and realistic. Of the objects in the room, the dish hanging on the wall draws special attention to itself – it was obviously made by the artist himself, who was fond of pottery. After painting the picture, Valentin Serov presented it to his mother Vera. Later, for this work, he received an award from the Moscow Society of Art Lovers.

“The Last Day of Pompeii” Karl Bryullov

Rating: 4.6

The last day of Pompeii

After completing his studies at the art academy, the young Bryullov decides to settle in Italy in order to study the classical art of ancient Rome. During this time, he often has to deal with neglect from the Italian creative elite and aristocracy. And when the artist saw the archaeological excavations of the ancient city of Pompeii destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius, he realized that this was his chance to create his own great work. Bryullov began his work by collecting materials and drawing a large number of sketches: he walked a lot along the ancient streets, examined the wreckage of houses, the remains of people sealed in cooled lava. According to rough estimates, about two thousand people died on the streets of Pompeii. Five years later, a six-by-three-meter canvas was completed. The scene depicted on it is made in the style of romanticism, despite the horror of the situation, there is no chaos and crowd here. People can be conditionally divided into groups, each of which is experiencing its own tragedy against the background of a global catastrophe. The central figure of the composition is a woman and a child lying on the sidewalk next to her, they personify the fall of the ancient world and the birth of a new culture. The picture brought Bryullov wide fame in Europe, and in his homeland he received the nickname “great”. His creation was recognized as a masterpiece by Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov and Emperor Nicholas I, who placed the canvas in the Hermitage.

“Barge Haulers on the Volga”, Ilya Repin

Rating: 4.5

Barge Haulers on the Volga

For the first time, Ilya Repin saw barge haulers at work in 1869 on the Neva, then he was still studying at the Academy of Arts. Impressed, the artist thought for some time about the idea of ​​writing a canvas on this topic. In the end, he went to the Volga, where he began his painting with sketches depicting the contrast between hired workers pulling a barge and smartly dressed people strolling along the Volga coast. Repin also met with the barge haulers, watched them, talked with some during the rest. He gradually came to rethink his original idea, deciding instead of social injustice to focus on specific people and the diversity of their characters. Each of the eleven people pulling a heavy cargo barge has a different response to this difficult and clearly low-paid occupation. Someone looks sullenly, with anger at an unfair fate, someone is philosophical calm, one even manages to light a pipe in the process. At the head of the barge haulers is an elderly experienced worker, whose prototype was the stripped priest Kanin, a new acquaintance of Repin. The complete opposite of the hardy and sadly harsh informal leader can be called a young blonde man. He is impatient and does not yet know how to handle the straps. A tugboat is seen in the distance, as a symbol of technological progress, it should free people from hard work, but for some reason it is not used, perhaps the services of barge haulers are much cheaper. The painting after the Petersburg exhibition of 1873 met with both enthusiastic and negative reviews. In the creative environment, she served as a significant impetus to the beginning of the era of realism.

“Boyarynya Morozova”, Vasily Surikov

Rating: 4.5

Boyarynya Morozova ', V.I.  Surikov

Originally from Siberia, Surkov had long been familiar with both the Old Believers in general and with the “Tale of the Boyaryn Morozova”. A representative of the highest Russian aristocracy and the owner of a large fortune, the noblewoman provided active assistance to the bearers of the Old Believer faith, thereby going against the Tsar and Patriarch Nikon. As a result, the woman was arrested and imprisoned in a monastery, where she died of hunger. For his painting, the artist chose the moment when Morozova was taken for interrogation. Coming up to the Chudov Monastery, she demonstratively shows the Old Believers' double-fingered hand with her shackled hand, making it clear to the assembled people that she will never renounce her beliefs. According to Surkov, the understanding of how best to create a composition came to him when he saw a crow spreading its wings on white snow. In addition, for a long time, the painter could not find a suitable image for the main character, until he accidentally saw an elderly Old Believer with a very pale face in the cemetery. The picture has a symbolic meaning – it depicts the reprisal of the state against disbelief in general, as well as the attitude of people towards it. The faces of the people crowding along the road express the widest range of emotions: from horror to mocking contempt. The canvas made its debut in a traveling exhibition and was soon purchased for the Tretyakov Gallery.

“Unknown”, Ivan Kramskoy

Rating: 4.5

unknown ', I.N.  Kramskoy

This unique painting is known everywhere and at the same time it can be called one of the most mysterious among the creations of Russian artists. On the canvas, made in the style of realism, there is a young urban fashionista, driving in a carriage along the Nevsky Prospect of St. Petersburg. Her outfit is a combination of everything that was at the height of fashion at the end of the 19th century: a coat made of expensive cloth trimmed with sable fur and silk ribbons, a muff made of the same materials, a velvet beret decorated with pearls and an ostrich feather, as well as a massive gold bracelet on her arm . All details of the clothing are depicted by the author with great skill and care. The background for the portrait is the snow-covered streets of the city, but they are slightly blurred so as not to distract the viewer from the model. Judging by the defiantly rich outfit, the lady did not belong to the highest circles of society, who followed certain rules of style. The secret of her personality was never revealed by the artist, although according to the most widespread theory, this is a former peasant woman who became the wife of a wealthy St. Petersburg nobleman Bestuzhev. The painting has visited many private collections, but years later it became available to a wide range of viewers and was sold throughout the country in the form of reproductions.

“Morning in a pine forest”, Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky

Rating: 4.5

Morning in a pine forest

It is difficult to imagine a picture more famous in Russia than the image of a pine forest, the panorama of which is decorated with three frolicking bear cubs, accompanied by the mother of a bear. Shishkin was an artist who keenly felt the beauty of wildlife, no one else could so harmoniously and at the same time accurately depict the pristine wilderness of a dense forest. The artist possessed wide knowledge of geology and botany, which allowed him to create a masterpiece that seems to be living its own life. The relief of the bark of a fallen tree, a bush growing near it, and leaning pines are traced with incredible detail. A deep ravine seen in the distance is shrouded in a thick foggy haze, which gives a sense of mystery inherent in places where there are practically no human settlements. The boron from which the artist painted the landscape is located on Gorodomlya Island, in the Tver Region. It is interesting that Shishkin did not draw the clumsy and funny cubs. Savitsky, an outstanding animal painter, worked on them. For the first time, the canvas was presented in 1889 at a traveling exhibition, then Tretyakov bought it. The collector erased Savitsky's signature, since, according to him, the whole idea belongs to Shishkin. The painting was widely known since the 19th century, and in the Soviet period it was replicated so widely that it became an integral part of mass culture.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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