Fedotov, Pavel Andreevich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fedotov, Pavel Andreevich


Born June 22 (July 4), 1815, in Moscow; died Nov. 14 (26), 1852, in St. Petersburg. Russian painter and graphic artist; founder of critical realism in the Russian fine arts.

Fedotov was educated in the First Moscow Cadet Corps and served in the Finland Regiment (resigned 1844) in St. Petersburg. He attended drawing classes at the Academy of Arts from 1834 to 1845. He studied under A. I. Zauerveid in the battle-scene studio and was advised by K. P. Briullov. Fedotov’s early works, that is, those dating before the mid-1840’s, included pencil sketches, caricatures, battle-scene watercolors, portraits, and sepia compositions (1844–46). In these works the artist turned to satire to criticize the customs and moral conduct of society and to express his sympathy toward the poor and the unfortunate. Thus, he formulated a program of critical realism.

Fedotov’s mature period, from the mid-1840’s to 1850, was devoted to oil painting. His series of paintings consisting of A New Companion of the Order (1846), The Fastidious Bride (1847), and Matchmaking for the Major (1848)—all three in the Tret’iakov Gallery in Moscow—reflects the artist’s new system for developing his subject. Fedotov enriched the action with conflict and temporal unity, excluded caricature, and combined critical fervor with a poetic representation of the world. The series achieves harmony of composition, purity of color, and preciseness of detail.

In the tradition of national folk art, Fedotov wrote poems about his paintings and recited them jokingly at exhibitions of his works. His best portrait paintings are small in size, depict the sitter in intimate surroundings, and are characterized by pictorial unity. Examples are the portraits of E. G. Flug (c. 1850) and N. P. Zhdanovich (1849), both of which are housed at the Russian Museum in Leningrad. Fedotov’s drawings, which achieved linear and rhythmic perfection, included a series of works with a moral and critical content.

The fame Fedotov had gained by the late 1840’s proved shortlived. Because of his participation in the activities of the Petra-shevskii circle, he was attacked by the press and his work was censored. As a result, he was reduced to poverty. The last years of his life—from 1850 to 1852 -were particularly tragic owing to a serious psychological disorder. Renouncing satire, Fedotov produced works imbued with sympathy for mankind and marked by new artistic solutions. Examples include The Widow (1851–52, Tret’iakov Gallery), Encore and More Encores (1851–52, Tret’iakov Gallery), and The Gamblers (1852, Kiev State Museum of Russian Art). In these works, secondary elements are transformed into a generalized image that is almost symbolic, conveying the futility of life under the regime of Nicholas I. Through the use of chiaroscuro and the rejection of local colors, Fedotov attained a pictorial unity on a level with the idea represented. His art greatly influenced the development of Russian painting in the second half of the 19th century.


Druzhinin, A. “Vospominanie o russkom khudozhnike P. A. Fedotove.” Sovremennik, 1853, no. 2.
Leshchinskii, Ia. D. P. A. Fedotov: Khudozhnik i poet. Leningrad-Moscow, 1946.
Leont’eva, G. K. P. A. Fedotov: Osnovnye problemy tvorchestva. Leningrad-Moscow, 1962.
Sarab’ianov, D. V. P. A. Fedotov. Moscow, 1969.
Sarab’ianov, D. V. P. A. Fedotov i russkaia Khudozhestvennaia kul’tura 40-kh godov XIX veka. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.