Perov, Vasilii Grigorevich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Perov, Vasilii Grigor’evich


Born Dec. 21, 1833 (Jan. 2, 1834) or Dec. 23, 1833 (Jan. 4, 1834), in Tobol’sk; died May 29 (Apr. 10), 1882, in the village of Kuz’minki, now part of Moscow. Russian painter.

Perov attended the Arzamas School of Painting (owned by A. V. Stupin) intermittently from 1846 to 1849. Between 1853 and 1861 he attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, where his instructors were M. I. Skotti, A. N. Mokritskii, and S. K. Zarianko. He received a stipend from the Academy of Arts for the years from 1862 to 1869. He lived in Paris from 1862 to 1864. Perov was a founding member of the peredvizhniki (the Society of Wandering Art Exhibitions).

In the 1860’s, Perov painted a number of socially critical genre works, in which he depicted ordinary events from everyday life while exaggerating the social characteristics of the figures almost to the point of caricature. Perov identified those responsible for social evil in serf-holding Russia (as seen in The Village Religious Procession at Easter, 1861; Tea-drinking in Mytishchy, 1862— both in the Tret’iakov Gallery). Abandoning the motley academic palette, Perov used brown and gray tones, which he harmonized by chiaroscuro effects.

Perov’s works from the Parisian period reflect the artist’s growing concern for human individuality and his interest in a tonal palette (for example, The Blind Musician, 1864, Tret’iakov Gallery). In the late 1860’s the artist’s critical tendencies found expression in sympathetic and compassionate depictions of the poor and the deprived. Composition was simplified and based on gray-brown tones. Landscape became very important, acquiring a “social character” and producing an overall emotional mood. These elements are seen in such works as The Funeral (1865), Troika: The Apprentices Are Bringing Water (1866), The Drowned Girl (1867), and The Last Pub at the Checkpoint (1868). All four of these paintings are in the Tret’iakov Gallery. During the same period, Perov produced a number of works that were similar to portraits in which he portrayed the individual qualities of the common people—their ability to think and feel deeply (for example, Little Fomushka, 1868; The Pilgrim, 1870—both in the Tret’iakov Gallery).

In the early 1870’s, in a search for a positive character, Perov painted portraits of representatives of the vanguard Russian intelligentsia. These works emphasize the sitters’ artistic genius and are noted for objectiveness, correctness of social characterization, and consonance of composition, pose, and gesture with the subject’s personality. Portraits by Perov at the Tret’iakov Gallery include those of A. N. Ostrovskii (1871), V. I. Dal’ (1872), and F. M. Dostoevsky (1872).

Between 1870 and the 1880’s social contradictions increased in number. During this post-reform period, opportunities for enlightened criticism became exhausted, and Perov experienced an ideological crisis. In 1877 he broke with the peredvizhniki. The artist abandoned socially critical genre themes for hunting scenes (The Bird Hunter, 1870; Hunters at Rest, 1871; and The Fisherman, 1871—all three in the Tret’iakov Gallery). In historical painting (The Trial by Pugachev, 1875, Historical Museum, Moscow) he suffered a number of artistic setbacks.

From 1871 to 1882, Perov taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. His pupils included N. A. Kasatkin, S. A. Korovin, M. V. Nesterov, and A. P. Riabushkin.


Sobko, N. P. V. G. Perov: Ego zhizn’i proizvedeniia. St. Petersburg, 1892.
Fedorov-Davydov, A. A. V. G. Perov. [Moscow] 1934.
Arkhangel’skaia, A. I. V. G. Perov. Moscow, 1950.


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