Art A-Z: F – Filonov Pavel

Pavel Nikolaevich Filonov (1883, Saint-Petersburg – 1941, Leningrad) – painter, illustrator, theoretic of art.

In 1897, Filonov moved to Saint-Petersburg where he studied painting in several places. He travelled to Jerusalem and Constantinople, in 1912 he studied classical art in France and Italy. Shortly he became one of leaders of Russian avant-garde.

The Feast of Kings (1913)

In 1916-1918, Filonov passed military service on Romanian front.

Filonov’s early works were influenced by symbolism and scientific discoveries, including in biology. One of his main approaches was the “mastering principle” – he thoroughly worked every millimeter of the painting. His aim was to share with spectator not only his vision of the world, but also his knowledge about the world.

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Filonov’s paintings reflect expressionist acuity and neo-primitivist archaic images. He created a series of formulas – Formula of Cosmos (1918-1919), The First Formula of Spring (1927-1928), etc, and the most famous – Formula of Spring (see up).

Filonov died of hunger during blockade of Leningrad in 1941.





Art A-Z: D – Dobuzhinsky Mstislav

Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinsky (1875, Novgorod – 1957, New-York) – painter, illustrator, decorator.

Graduated from the Faculty of Law of the Saint-Petersburg University (1895-1899). Attended Painting School of Peredvizhniki, continued studies at Azbe’s and Holloshi’s workshops in Munich.

Klaipeda, 1934

Collaborated with satirical reviews. In 1902, Dobuzhinsky became a member of Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) fellowship, where he became one of leaders.

Dobuzhinsky early works are marked by influence of Munich’s modern and symbolism. Unlike his fellows in Mir Iskusstva, Dobuzhinsky’s image of a modern city is not romantic, it is full of inner drama (The man in spectacles. Portrait of Sunenberg, 1905-1906, see up)


As many other famous Russian painters of the beginning of the XX century, he actively work in theatre. At the same time,  he gained fame as fine book illustrator, capable to portray psycological depth of a book. He also made post cards and stamps.

In 1924, Dobuzhinsky left the Soviet Union and lived in France, England and the USA. He continued his career of theatre decorator. He made decorations for performances in Paris, Brussels, London, New-York.

Art A-Z: B – Bilibin Ivan

Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1876, Tarkhovka – 1942, Leningrad) – painter, illustrator, theatre decorator.


Studied at the Law Faculty of the Saint-Petersburg University (1896 – 1900), and simultaneously at the Painting School of Peredvizhniki (1895 – 1898). Besides, Bilibin passed courses at Azbe’s studio in Munich, at Repin’s workshop in Tenisheva’s school and at the Academy of Arts.


Member of Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) fellowship.

In 1920-1925 – travelled in Egypt, Palestine, Syria. In 1925 – 1936 – worked in Paris, in 1936 – returned to Saint-Petersburg.

Bilibin started his career as book illustrator and by 1900s became one of the leaders of Russian modern. His style was inspired by Japanese woodcut of XVIII-XIX centuries, Russian Lubok and English painter Birdsley’s graphic manner. Bilibin created his own festive style of Russian illustration, which he called “noble lubok”.


Bilibin made a series of decorations and costume designs for theatre performances, including Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov and for Dyagilev’s Ballet Russes.

He became famous for illustrations for Russian fairy tales, including those written by Pushkin, he also made illusrations for fairy tales edited by Flammarion.


Read more:

Art A-Z: L – Lubok

Art A-Z: A – Avant-garde

Avant-garde or Russian avant-garde –  movement of the first quarter of the XX century that implemented new artistic ideas.  The name “avant-garde” was given to the movement because it was the time when Russian art succeeded on the international arena.

N.Goncharova, Cyclist, 1913

Avant-garde was influenced by…:

  • French cubism – a lot of Russian painters studied in Paris, including L.Popova, N.Udaltsova, V.Pestel. Besides, painters could visit the collection of S.Shchukin in Moscow, which was open for the public. Since the beginning of the 1910 Shchukin had in his collection works of P.Picasso and J.Braque. K.Malevich was among famous visitors of the collection.
  • Italian futurism – especially the way how movement is depicted. However futurism did not take strong roots in Russia, but rather a synthesis of cubism and futurism emerged (“cubofuturism”).
  • Russian traditions. Although this seems controversial, because many avantgardists were hostile toward the past, but they mostly criticised academic style and bourgeois culture, rather than traditions as a whole. Russian ancient art was one of sources of inspiration for avant-garde painters. We can find traits of icons in their works – flat images, contrast colours, tension, etc. Symbolic meaning of icons as objects of cult is also reflected in avant-garde painting, for example, Malevich refered to his Black Square as “my icon” and suggested to place it in a corner at exhibitions, like icon. Lubok also influenced avant-garde (see Art A-Z: L – Lubok).
V.Tatlin, design of monument of the III International, 1919-1920

Famous Russian painter Mikhail Vrubel  is considered as one of predecessors of avant- garde, because he was one of few artists who understood value of line and colour per se.

Avant-garde developed in the framework of artistic fellowships and groups, emerged at late 1900s. Since 1910s young avantgardists started to participate in exhibitions in Europe – Burlyuk brothers, Kandinsky, Goncharova, Larionov took part in Blue Knight exhibitions in Munich, Arkhipenko, Baranov-Rossine, Mashkov, Shagal – in Salon d’Automne in Paris.

M.Shagal, Blue House, 1917

The beginning of the World War I could not stop development of avant-garde and by 1915 the movement gained momentum. In short time Russian avant-garde produced multiple styles, but the biggest of them were postcubism and objectlessness. After October Revolution of 1917 new authorities appreciated avant-garde, and for a short period of time supported the movement. A number of new organisations, museums, as well as new system of artistic education appeared.

In terms of ideas avant-garde already told everything by the end of 1910s, and at the beginning of 1920 it started to adapt them to the reality. Avant-garde influenced architecture, including constructivism.

Since mid 1920s Soviet government insisted on creation of mass culture, and avant-garde was not associated with the Soviet future anymore, many avantgagdists lost their posts. In 1932, an ordinance On reshuffle of literature and artistic organisations was issued, all artistic organisations merged onto unions, controlled by the Communist Party. It was the official end of avant-garde in Russia.

Art A-Z: V – Vereshchagin Vasily

Vasily Vasilievich Vereshchagin (1842, Cherepovets -1904, Port-Arthur) – painter.

After graduation from Navy Cadet Corps he started to learn painting at classes of Peredvizhniki (1858 – 1860), then at the Academy of Art (1860-1863), and later in Paris at Jerome’s school (1860-1863).

In the course of his life Vereshchagin made trips in Russia, Central Asia, China, India, Middle East, Japan. He thoroughly portrayed different ethnicities, their everyday life, traditions, costumes and gathered vast ethnographic collection. His memoir is an interesting source of information about people that he met.

Vereshchagin visited the most remote corners of the world, in India, together with his wife he was the first European man to attend a religious ceremony in one of mountain monastery.

The Tamerlan’s Gate, 1871

Although Vereshchagin loved to paint peaceful life, his works that demonstrated war brought him fame (see up The Apotheosis of War). As he considered that in order to be able to portray military scenes truthfully, he volunteered and personally participated in many battles. He took part in Russian-Turkish war and Central Asian campaign. In 1904, he went to Japan, a country that he dreamed for years. On his way to battle fields of Russian-Japanese wars he died when flagship blasted on a mine.

Defeated. Requiem, 1877

Vereshchagin established himself as independent painter, he never joined any society of fellowship. Russian authorities criticised him for lack of patriotism and too realistic military scenes. But military men respected him, General Mikhail Skobelev gave him his personal blazon. Besides. his works were appreciated abroad, his had several successful exhibitions on London, Paris, etc, and auction in New-York.

Art A-Z: U – Ushakov Simon

Simon Fedorovich Ushakov (1626, Moscow – 1686, Moscow) – painter. One of the most prominent masters of  late Russian medieval art.

Ushakov’s style influenced official icon-painting and was in force until the XIX century. His manner was a compromise between ancient Russian style and perspective European painting.

“Honorable icon-painter” of the Arms Chamber. In 1664 – 1686, he was the head of icon-painting workshop, monitored all icon-painting in the country. In 1648- 1664, Ushakov was making designs for utensil, jewellery, embroidery, etc for Gold and Silver Chambers. He created miniatures as well.

Ushakov was the first painter who gained status of nobleman for his activity.

One of the most famous Ushakov’s work is The Planting the Tree of Russian State, which portrays tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich with his family and demonstrates important secular and ecclesiastic persons of Russian history.

Ushakov painted icons for many churches in Moscow, including the Dormition Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Archangel in the Kremlin.

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The Planting the Tree of Russian State, 1668


Learn more about the Arms Chamber and Simon Ushakov  in the course of our Kremlin Tour.

Art A-Z: T – Talashkino

Talashkino – village and estate in Smolensk region, one of art and enlightenment centers of Russia.

Talashkino was bought in 1893 by philanthropist, collector and artist Maria Tenisheva.

Tenisheva made a lot of efforts to attract famous painters, sculptors and architect to the estate. Unlike Abramtsevo, Talashkino didn’t become center of unanimous artistic fellowship, but such artists as M.Vrubel, K.Korovin, I,Repin, N. Rerikh, S.Malyutin worked there. Though like Abramtsevo circle, Talashkino praised romantic Russian style.

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Church in Flenovo, paintings were made by Rerikh in 1910s, architect – S.Malyutin

One of Talashkino’s goals was to restore traditional Russian crafts, a large collection of embroidery, carved wooden items, fabrics, clothes, utensils were gathered there. Since 1900, Tenisheva organised in Talashkino workshops of carving, embroidery and ceramics, where craftsmen from neighbouring villages worked. But professional artists like Vrubel and Rerikh also worked there. Workshops’ products were many time exhibited in Russia and abroad.

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Interior of Teremok (see exterior up)




Art A-Z: S – Serov Valentin

Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov (1865, Saint-Petersburg – 1911, Moscow) – painter.

Studied at the Academy of Arts (1880-1885) in P.Chistyakov’s classes. In 1887-1909 – teacher of painting at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.

In 1894 – 1899 – member of Peredvizhniki. Since 1899 – member of Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) fellowship. In 1903 Serov became member of the Academy of Arts, but quitted it in 1905 after fusillade of peaceful demonstration on the 9th January of 1905.

Born to a family of a composer. His father knew I.Repin, who became the first Serov’s teacher of painting, when he was ten.

The Girl with Peaches


One the brightest members of Abramtsevo circle, where his early artistic style established. In Abramtsevo he made several famous works, including The Girl with Peaches (1887) and The Girl on the Sun (1888).

As other members of Mir Iskusstva Serov was particularly interested in Russian history. His works dedicated to Peter the Great (Peter I on Hunt (1902, Peter I (1907) showed Serov’s skill to create composition and portray characters.

Serov’s fame enabled him to execute orders of rich people of the epoch – members of royal family, nobility, entrepreneurs, artists.

Peter I

In 1907, he travelled to Greece with L.Bakst, and made several paintings dedicated to myths and history of Ancient Greece.

The Rape of Europa (1910)

Since 1909, Serov cooperated with Dyagilev’s Ballets Russes, he made decorations for opera Judith (1909, together with L.Bakst), designed curtain for ballet Scheherazade (1911), etc. He also made famous portrait of Ida Rubinstein in 1910 (Dyagilev’s ballerina) (see up).

Interesting Fact

In 2015, The Tretyakov Gallery organized the exhibition of Serov’s works, which became so popular and so many people wanted to visit it, that one day visitors broke the doors of the entrance.

Read more:

Art A-Z: R – Repin Ilya

Art A-Z: B – Bakst Lev

Art A-Z: A – Abramtsevo Circle

Art A-Z: R – Repin Ilya

Ilya Efimovich Repin (1844, Chuguev – 1930, Kuokkala, today – Repino) – painter.

One of the most prominent Russian painters of the second half of the XIX century.

Repin studied at the Society of Painters’ Support, where I.Kramskoy was his teacher. Later he passed studies at the Academy of Arts. In 1873-1876, he received scholarship of the Academy of Arts to go to Italy and France. Member of Peredvizhniki since 1878.

Since 1882, Repin lived in Saint-Petersburg, since 1900 – in his estate in Kuokkala, on the shore of the Finnish gulf.

Barge Haulers on the Volga

Under Kramskoy’s influence he became supporter of democratic movement in art, which criticised academic style.

During travel on Volga, he made several sketches and made painting Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-1873), which brought him fame. The painting was a landmark in Russian art, as people’s life became a popular topic after it.

During his stay in France, Repin painted en plein air, and made a series of works a la G. Courbet and young C.Pissarro.

Portrait of Leo Tolstoi

Repin was a master of portrait, which helped him to create multifigure paintings. He made a series of portraits of his contemporaries – collector P.Tretyakov (1883), writer L.Tolstoi (1887), composer M.Musorgsky (1881).

Repin’s late works however are not equal in force with earlier master-pieces.

Author of the memoir Far Close.

Art A-Z: P – Petrov-Vodkin Kusma

Kusma Sergeevich Petrov-Vodkin (1878, Khvalynsk – 1939, Saint-Petersburg) – painter.

In 1893-1895 studied at Burov’s classes in Samara, in 1897-1904 – at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, in 1901 – at Azbe’s studio in Munich. From 1906 to 1908 Petrov-Vodkin passed  apprentice in several workshops in Paris.

In the first decade of the XX century he travelled a lot in France, Italy, Greece, Northern Africa.

Anxiety, 1934


In 1908 he moved to Saint-Petersburg and became teacher of painting.  In 1918 – 1933 tought at the Academy of Arts.

Member of Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) fellowship.

Petrov-Vodkin’s particular style developed under influence of ancien Russian art, Italian primitivists, and French art. his spectrum is based on three open local colours – red, blue and yellow.

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Morning Still-Life, 1918

In 1920s, painter’s system of “spherical perspective” established, which marked his later works.

Author of memoir “Euclid’s’ space”.