Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev was born in Astrakhan on March 7, 1878 into the family of a professor of philosophy, history of literature, and logic at the local theological seminary.
Between 1893 and 1896, Boris took private art lessons in Astrakhan from Pavel Vlasov, a pupil of Vasily Perov. Subsequently, from 1896 to 1903, he attended Ilya Repin’s studio at the Academy of Arts in St. Peterburg. Concurrently he took classes in sculpture under Dmitry Stelletsky and in etching under Vasily Mathé.
He first exhibited in 1896.
In 1904, he attended the private studio of René Ménard in Paris. In 1904, he traveled to Spain, in 1907 to Italy, and in 1909 visited Austria, France, and Germany, and again Italy. During these years he painted many portraits and genre pieces.
In 1905-06, he contributed to the satirical journals Zhupel (Bugbear) and Adskaya Pochta (Hell’s Mail). At that time, he first met the World of Art (Russian: Mir Iskusstva) artists, a group of innovative Russian artists. He joined their association in 1910 and subsequently took part in all their exhibitions. Earlier, in 1909, he was made an Academician of Painting.
In 1909, Kustodiev developed the initial symptoms of the grave illness that in 1916 paralyzed the lower part of his body, thus confining him to his studio where he continued to paint, relying on memories from his boyhood and youth and on his imagination. His ability to remain joyful and lively despite his paralysis is amazing. His colorful paintings and joyful genre pieces do not reveal his physical suffering, and on the contrary give the impression of a carefree and cheerful life. His Pancake Tuesday/Maslenitsa. (1916), Fontanka. (1916) are all painted from his memories. He meticulously restores his own childhood in the busy city on the Volga banks.
In 1923, Kustodiev joined the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia. He continued to paint, make engravings, illustrate books and design for the theater up until his death on May 28, 1927, in Leningrad.
Kustodiev. His Time, Life and Work. By V.Lebedeva. Moscow, 1984.
Boris Kustodiev. By A. Turkov. 1986, Moscow
Boris Kustodiev. By V. Dokuchaeva. Moscow, 1991.
Russian Painters. Encyclopedic Dictionary. St. Petersburg. 1998.
Boris Kustodiev--paintings, graphic works, book illustrations, theatrical designs by Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev. Aurora Art Publishers, 1983.
The Art and Architecture of Russia (Pelican History Art) by George Heard Hamilton. Yale Univ Pr, 1992.
A Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Artists 1420-1970 by John Milner. Antique Collectors' Club, 1993.