Art A-Z: N – Nesterov Mikhail

Mikhail Vasilievich Nesterov (Ufa, 1862 – Moscow, 1942) – painter.

Studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and at the Academy of Arts in Saint-Petersburg.

Since 1896 – member of  the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions (Peredvizhniki). 

Girls on the river bank

In 1890 – 1895, Nesterov together with V.Vasnetsov painted Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev. In 1894 – 1895, he worked on sketches of mosaics for the Church of the Savior on Blood in Saint-Petersburg.

The first half of Nesterov’s career was marked by interest for religion. He painted The Hermit (1886) after death of his wife, The Vision to the Youth Bartholomew (1889-1890) (see up), made painting for Marfo-Mariinskiy convent (1908-1911). He was inspired by ancient Russian religions painting, as well as contemporary religious writers and philosophers, including N.Leskov and L.Tolstoi.

Silence, 1903

Since mid-1920s, Nestetov paints portraits of his contemporaries – painters, scientists, etc.

Portrait of sculptor Vera Mukhina, 1940



Visit the Tretyakov Gallery to see Nesterov’s famous works.



Art A-Z: L – Lubok

Lubok – traditional Russian engraved or painted images made by craftsmen and distributed among people.

Traits – image on a list is combined with text, simple composition, bright colours, anonymity.

Lubok emerged in the XVII century and gained momentum in the first half of the XIX century and declined by the beginning of the XX century.

At the beginning lubok depicted religious stories, it was popular among the Old Believers, especially in the North of Russia, Povolzhie and near Moscow.

Death of a just man and  of a sinner

In the XIX century, lubok depicted people’s heroes, songs, satire, proverbs. It was sold at markets and fairs.

Lubok was engraved by different techniques – on wooden or copper plates, later –  on lithographic limestone.


Art A-Z: K – Kandinsky Vasily

Vasily Vasilievich Kandinsky (1866, Moscow – 1944, Neuilly-sur-Seine) – painter, theorist of art, one of founders of abstract art.

Born to a family of a merchant, he had Russian, German and Buryat (one of Russia’s people) origins. He equally spoke Russian and German since childhood.

Kandinsky graduated from the Faculty of Law of the Moscow State University and planned to become a professor, but suddenly he dropped academic career and went to Munich to learn painting.

Composition VI

In 1900s, Kandinsky’s style was influenced by impressionism and modern. He painted landscapes and views of Munich and other places that he visited, as well as historical heroes and fairy tales.

In 1906-1908, Kandinsky travelled around Europe, he spent a year in Paris, six months – in Berlin. He participated in multiple exhibitions.

In 1908-1910, he started to experiment with composition and colour in landscapes of Murnau, near Munich.

комп 8
Composition VIII

In 1911, the first abstract Painting with a circle was created, and in 1913 – two works that marked Munich period – Composition VI and Composition VII (see up). However, a lot of experts suppose that Kandinsky’s aquarelle of 1910 was the first abstract picture ever created.

In 1915-1921 – due to the First World War he returned to Moscow, where he worked as professor.

Since 1921 – professor of Bauhaus (Germany).

1933-1944 – Paris period. In Paris Kandinsky became friend of P. Mondrian, H. Miro and other young painters, who considered him one the brightest visionary of the XX century.

Author of several books about art, including About the Spiritual in Art and Point and Line to Plane, which embodied Kandinsky ideas about art and became indispensable for many painters and connoisseurs of art.

Interesting Fact

In one of his books Kandinsky states that he was inspired by Monet’s Hayrick, painting that he saw at the impressionism exhibition in Moscow in 1895.


If you want to see Composition VII – visit the Tretyakov Gallery, for Composition VI – go the State Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg. However, Kandinsky’s paintings are a part of many museums’ and private collections around the globe.

Art A-Z: I – Ivanov Aleksandr

Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov (1806, Saint-Petersburg – 1858, Saint-Petersburg) – painter.

Born to a family of a painter, he studied at the Academy of Art. In 1830, he received scholarship to travel to Italy.

In 1833, in Italy,  he started to make studies for The Appearance of Christ before the People, which became the work of his life (see up).

As Ivanov described the painting him-self, it was about “crossroad of physical and spiritual powers”.

Ivanov was the first in history of Russian art, who used sketches made en plein air for landscape backgrounds. At the same time his style was strictly classical and academic and did not resemble Impressionists, who later also worked en plein air.

Walking on water, study, 1850s

In 1857, Ivanov exposed The Appearance in his workshop in Rome. Inspired by its success in Europe, he brought the painting to Saint-Petersburg, where it was displayed at the Winter Palace (residence of the emperor), and later at the Academy of Art.

Russian public, however, was indifferent and even hostile towards The Appearance. The painter, who had poor health, was depressed by the public’s reaction, and 1858, he caught cholera and died.


Visit the Tretyakov Gallery to learn more about The Appearance, its history, and studies for it.

Art A-Z: G – Grabar Igor

Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar (1871,  Budapest, – 1960, Moscow) – painter, historian of art.

In 1893, Grabar graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Saint-Petersburg. In 1894 – 1896 – studied at the Academy of Art, he attended Repin’s classes, then in 1896-1989 he continued his studies in Munich.

In 1901, he became a member of Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) fellowship.

Made multiple trips to Europe, in 1914 he visited Egypt, in 1924 – the USA.

February azure, 1904

His early works were widely influenced by impressionism, in his landscapes he used the method of decompositions of colour, especially in winter scenes.  Later, however, his style transformed into more academic.

Grabar made huge work to preserve Russian art. He wrote books about painters I.Repin, V.Serov, I.levitan. In 1909-1916, under his reduction the first History of Russian Art was published.

Chrisantemums, 1905

In 1913-1925 – head of the Tretyakov Gallery.

In 1918, he became head of Central Restauration Workshops, which later were named after him (In June 2018, this organisation celebrated 100 anniversary).

Author of History of Russian Art in several volumes (1953-1869).

Art A-Z: F – Fedotov Pavel

Pavel Andreevich Fedotov (1815, Moscow – 1852, Saint-Petersburg) – painter.

Made a military career. In 1834 – 1844, during military service in Saint-Petersburg he visited classes at the Academy of Arts and was making aquarelle and pencil sketches of mates and friends. In 1844, Fedotov completely dedicated him-self to art.

In 1849, three Fedotov’s works, that were exposed at the Academy of Art’s exhibition, received positive reviews (Including Matchmaking of the Major – see up).

Nobleman’s Breakfast, 1850

Fedotov’s paintings are full of drama, interesting plots and conflicts. His later works, however, are more pessimistic and more static.

Players, 1851-1852


If you want to see Fedotov’s works, visit the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the State Russian Museum in Saint-Petersburg.

Art A-Z: D – Deineka Aleksandr

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Deineka (1899, Kursk – 1969, Moscow) – painter, illustrator, sculptor.

After studies at Vkhutemas (Art and technical school), he started his career as illustrator at several journals and author of posters. At the same time he made first steps in panel painting, which was influenced by his experience as illustrator.

His favourite subjects were industrialisation, work and leisure of Soviet people, sport.

Defense of Petrograd, 1927

Monumental forms, expression, dynamics, clarity and brightness of colours are the typical traits of Deineka’s style.

Baseball, 1935

Famous works:

  • Panels for Soviet Pavilion at World Exhibition in Paris, 1937
  • 35 mosaics for Mayakovskaya station, 1938


Learn more about Mayakovskaya station and A.Deineka in the course of our Metro Tour.

Art A-Z: B – Bakst Lev

Lev (Leo) Samoilovich Bakst (Rosenberg) (1866, Grodno – 1924, Paris) – painter, illustrator, theatre decorator.

In 1883 – 1887 – student of the Academy of Art (Saint-Petersburg). In 1891 travelled to Europe, made studies in several workshops in Paris.

Decoration for ballet “Scheherazade”, 1916

Bakst was one of members of “Mir Iskusstva” (World of Art) fellowship, in 1899 – 1904 he was main illustrator of its review. In 1909 – 1920 – decorator of Dyagilev’s “Ballets Russes”, worked in Paris since 1911. Since 1914 – academic of Russian Academy of Art.

Baskt was one of few Russian artists of the beginning of XX century, who was more famous abroad than in Russia. His colourful decorations and designs of costumes for Ballets Russes charmed European public.

Design of costume for ballet “Narcissus”, 1911

His style, inspired by Orient, influenced not only theatre, but also fashion, including Paul Poiret, whose bright colours dominated women’s fashion in the end of 1910s and 1920s.

Besides, Bakst painted a lot of portraits, but, unlike his works in theatre, his panel painting is typical for “Mir Iskusstva” members.



Art A-Z: A – Abramtsevo Circle

(Art A-Z is a dictionary of Russian art)

Abramtsevo circle – fellowship of outstanding Russian artists (painters, sculptors, architects) emerged in mid 1870s in Abramtsevo, estate owned by famous philanthropist Savva Mamontov.

Rich entrepreneur Savva Mamontov bought Abramtsevo, situated not far from Moscow, in 1870, the estate was previously owned by a family of Russian writer, Aksakov.

Mamontov was connoisseur of art and financially supported a lot of artists, including prominent Russian singer Fedor Shalyapin.

In Abramtsevo, Mamontov gathered painters Viktor Vasnetsov, Vasiliy Polenov, Ilya Repin, Mikhail Vrubel, Valentin Serov, Mikhail Nesterov, scultptor Mark Antokolsiy and others. The fellowship did not have any charter or programme and was inspired by Russian history, folklore and fairy tales.

The group’s aesthetics was influenced by modern, symbolism and neo-Russian style, although  each representative had his own particular style.

мамонтов и ко
Left to right – Surikov (seating), Repin, Mamontov (at the piano), Korovin, Serov, Antokolskiy

Mamontov also paid attention to applied arts and created a ceramic workshop in Abramtsevo, which was transferred to Moscow at the beginning of 1900s when the fellowship split up. The workshop was the place where a lot of decorative panels were made for buildings in Moscow.

Tip 1

You can learn more about Savva Mamontov and some members of Abramtsevo Circle in the course of our Walking Tour.

Tip 2

Abramtsevo is open for visits, it is a very nice place to go in summer.