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Dmitrievich Polenov was born into a noble and intelligent family; his father
was a high-ranking military officer and archeologist. His mother was fond
of fine arts and was an amateur painter. Their son inherited the talents
of both parents – love for science and for art.
He studied simultaneously in the St. Petersburg University and in the Academy
of Arts. In 1871, he got a diploma of a lawyer and a Major Gold Medal in
the Academy for his picture Raising of Jairus'
Daughter (1871). It took him several years to decide
to go in favor of painting. As a pensioner of the Academy he traveled to
Germany, Italy, France, painted historical and genre pictures and portraits.
But most attractive for him was landscape painting on plein air. He studied
the works of French landscape painters, especially those by the Barbizon
In 1876 he returned to Russia. In 1878, at the exhibition of the Itinerants’
Society of Traveling Exhibitions he displayed his Moscow
Backyard (1878). In this serene picture he managed to unite
spontaneity and frankness of plein air perception with Russian landscape
tradition and intimate lyricism. His next works Granny's
Orchard (1878), Pond
(1879), and studies of 1881-82, which he made during his trip to Greece
and the Middle East, established his fame as one of the best Russian landscape
painters. He was the first to introduce the principles of ‘European influence’
in Russia, these were the basics of plein air painting: clean and bright
colors, colored shadows, free strokes. In 1882-84, Polenov taught in the
Moscow School of Painting. Among his students were Isaac
Levitan, Constantin Korovin,
A. Arkhipov and others.
The artist also created a series of canvases devoted to Jesus Christ. He
visited Palestine twice, studied the landscape, architecture, people of
the land. During 1888-1909 he created dozens of works devoted to Christ:
and Woman Taken in Adultery (1886-1887), On
the Genisaret (Tiberias) Lake (1886). His manner of depicting
Christ was new, and his compositions, though academic, were rather realistic.
Polenov worked much for theater, he was one of the reformers of theater
decorative art. In Moscow he built a House of Theatral Education in 1915.
In his estate of Borok, where he created many of his landscapes, he collected
objects of art to open a museum. Now it is a Museum of Polenov.
Polenov by T. Yurova. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1972.