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Vasilyevich Nesterov was born into the family of a merchant on May 1862
in the city of Ufa in the Urals, Russia. In 1874, his parents brought him
to Moscow to study in a technical college, where he caught the attention
of K. Trutovsky, an artist and inspector of the Moscow School of Art. This
was an important meeting, the turning point in his life. In 1876 on the
recommendation of K. Trutovsky he entered the Moscow School of Painting
and Sculpture; he studied in the classes of Perov,
and Pryanishnikov. In 1881, he entered St. Petersburg Academy of Art, studio
(1881-84), actively participated in the Itinerants’ Society of Traveling
Exhibitions (the society organized the traveling exhibitions through all
First he tried himself in the genres of historic and everyday scenes, but
later, in the 1890s, he became interested in religious themes. In technique
his religious pictures are much influenced by style modern. In the 1890s-1900s,
he fulfilled paintings in the Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev, mosaics in the
Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in St. Petersburg (1894-96), paintings
in the Church of Alexander Nevsky in Abastuman, Georgia (1899-1904),
frescoes in Marfo-Mariinsky Cloister in Moscow (1907-11). His other works
of the period are also connected with religion: Hermit
(1889), Vision to Youth Bartholomew
(1889-1890), Youth of Saint Sergey Radonezhsky
(1892-1897), Tzarevich Dmitry
(1899), Philosophers (Portrait of Pavel
Florenskiy and Sergey Bulgakov) (1917), Archbishop
(Portrait of Antoniy Volynskiy) (1917) and many others.
In 1885, he married Maria Ivanovna Martynovskaya. Unfortunately, she died
next year after giving birth to their daughter, Olga. “The death of Masha
made me an artist”, Nesterov wrote later. His paintings, which according
to his own judgment had lacked feelings, now obtained them. From now on
he depicted moods, not events. One of his most lyrical works is Portrait
of Olga Nesterova, known as Woman in a Riding Habit (1906),
which personifies a typical Russian girl from an upper-middle class family.
In the ‘Soviet’ period of his creative work Nesterov paints portraits,
mostly of his colleagues, Portrait of Ivan
Shadr (1934), Portrait of Vera
Mukhina (1940) etc. There are several interesting portraits
of outstanding people of his time: Portrait
of Sergey Yudin (1935), Portrait
of Ivan Pavlov (1935), etc.
Mikhail Nesterov by A. Rusakova. Aurora. Leningrad. 1990.