Vasil’ev, Fedor Aleksandrovich
Born Feb. 10 (22), 1850, in Gatchina, now Leningrad Oblast; died Sept. 24 (Oct. 6), 1873, in Yalta. Russian landscape painter.
Vasil’ev attended the painting school of the Society for Encouragement of the Arts in St. Petersburg, where he studied under I. I. Shishkin (1866-67), and later went to the Academy of Arts (1871). He was close to I. N. Kramskoi. Exceptionally gifted, Vasil’ev left a profound mark on Russian art during his brief period of artistic activity. In his painting, images of nature assumed a special poetic quality and depth of feeling. Painted in glowing, saturated colors, full of the rapture of the sensuous beauty of the world, Vasil’ev’s works are imbued with spirituality and romantic emotion. These characteristics were already defined in the small landscapes of 1868-69 (Return of the Herd and Before the Rain, both in the Tret’iakov Gallery), which depict nature at vivid, spectacular moments. In these paintings the style is characterized by resonant accents of color and by the dynamism of free strokes.
Vasil’ev’s journey on the Volga together with I. E. Repin (1870) had great significance for his creative work. The result of this were the drawings and paintings (View on the Volga: Barges, 1870, Russian Museum, Leningrad; Volga Lagoons, Tret’iakov Gallery) that showed the painter’s striving toward pictorial generalization of the landscape image, tonal unity of the palette, and lyrical experiencing of nature. On his return to St. Petersburg, Vasil’ev created one of his most important works— Thaw (1871, Tret’iakov Gallery). Imbued with longing and sadness and with bitter pensiveness about life in Russian villages, it carries great social significance.
In 1871, Vasil’ev became ill with tuberculosis and settled in Yalta. In the Crimea, from old sketches and recollections he painted the broad, epic canvas Wet Meadow (1872, Tret’iakov Gallery). This painting, severe in composition, is striking for its freshness and depth of color and for its rich internal gradations; it is a synthetic image of nature that conceals within itself a complex range of feelings. Vasil’ev’s last work— In the Crimean Mountains (1873, Tret’iakov Gallery)—is distinguished by subtlety of color relationships united by a general gray-brown tone; the image of nature in it assumes a dimension of heroic grandeur. Vasil’ev’s creative work manifests the striving, characteristic of the masters of Russian landscape painting of the 1860’s and 1870’s, to spiritualize the landscape and to make it express progressive social ideals.
REFERENCESFedorov-Davydov, A. F. A. Vasil’ev (1850-1873). Moscow, 1955.
Mal’tseva, F. S. Mastera russkogo realisticheskogo peizazha: Ocherki, issue 2. Moscow, 1959.