The works of the wonderfully gifted landscape painter Feodor Alexandrovich Vasilyev, who died very young, are of great importance for Russian culture.
Born into a poor family in 1850 he had to earn his living from the age of 12 years – he worked as a mailman, scriber, assistant to a restorer of pictures. After his father’s untimely death, he became the sole supporter of the family. In 1865, he managed to enter the evening classes of the School of Painting, sponsored by the Society for Promotion of Artists. Vasilyev’s exceptional talent required perfection, but the artist’s hard life barred its progress denying him the opportunity of a necessary technical training. While at School, Vasilyev got acquainted with many painters, who took care of him. He was especially friendly and close with Kramskoy and Shishkin, who took Vasilyev to work with them en plein-air and in travels throughout Russia.
In Vasilyev’s early works, such as After a Thunderstorm (1868), Near a Watering Place (1868) and others, one can feel the influence of the Barbizon School; it affected his art but never resulted in a non-creative borrowing of the motifs. Though, at first, Vasilyev was somewhat inferior technically to the Barbizon painters, he eventually found his own way of handling the subject and After a Rain (1869) and After a Rain.Country Road. exceed in many respects, the Barbizon stormy scenes in their expressiveness and deeply national sound.
In 1870, Vasilyev traveled on the Volga, the picture Volga View. Barges (1870) made him popular. In 1871, Vasilyev painted Thaw (1871), which made him famous immediately, even the tzar family ordered a copy, the Society for Promotion of Artists awarded him first prize, he was admitted, as an intern, to the Academy of Arts. The Artist had not time to enjoy his popularity – he got seriously ill and had to leave St. Petersburg forever. He moved to Crimea. The Society for Promotion of Artists sponsored his stay there, but he was obliged to pay with his paintings.
First Vasilyev could not get used to new scenery. He goes on to paint Russian plains; his works, such as his masterpiece Wet Meadow (1872), were done from memory, old sketches and imagination. After some time Vasilyev started to draw Crimea, gradually beginning to feel the attraction to its mountain views. In the Mountains of Crimea (1873) was an outstanding work and the last work of the artist. He died in autumn 1873, 23 years old.
At the posthumous exhibition in St. Petersburg all his works had been sold even before the exhibition opened. What he did is enough to put Vasilyev among the best masters of Russian landscape painting.
Feodor Vasilyev. Moscow. Izobrazitelnoe Iskusstvo. 1991.
Vasilyev by F. Maltseva. Russian Painters of the XIX century. Moscow. 1986.