Kramskoy Ivan Nikolaevich


(27.05(08.06).1837 - 24.03(05.04).1887)


Russian genre, historical and portrait painter, engraver, art critic and public figure.

Born in Ostrogozhsk, in a poor petty-bourgeois family, received initial training in the county school.

Drawing Kramskoy began to engage in self-taught from childhood. At the age of sixteen he went to retoucher to a Kharkov photographer.

In 1857 he entered the Academy of Arts. As an opponent of academic art, Kramskoy became one of the initiators of the “riot of fourteen”, ending with the departure from the Academy and the creation in 1863 of the Artel of Artists, which was the first attempt to form an independent creative association of artists in Russia. Thanks to Kramskoy, an atmosphere of mutual aid, cooperation and deep spiritual interests reigned in it. At this time, the vocation of the Kramsky portrait painter was fully defined.

In 1870  the Artel was transformed into the "Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions", the leader, developer of the charter, ideological mentor, one of the most active and respected members of the board of directors was Kramskoy. The purpose of the Partnership was to seek to independently determine the development of artistic culture in the country. If Artel was the first attempt in Russian art to create an artistic association independent of official tutelage, the Partnership implemented this idea. From the other leaders of the Partnership, he was favorably distinguished by the independence of his worldview, his rare open-mindedness, sensitivity to everything new in the artistic process, and intolerance for all dogmatism.

Since 1871  the Partnership has arranged 48 traveling exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Moscow, then shown in Kiev, Kharkov, Kazan, Orel, Riga, Odessa and other cities. It united almost all the most talented artistic forces of the country. Its composition at various times included (besides the initiators) I.E. Repin, V.I. Surikov, I.M.Pryanishnikov, A.K. Savrasov, I.I. Shishkin, V.M. Maksimov, K.A. Savitsky, A.M. Vasnetsov and V.M. Vasnetsov, A.I. Kuindzhi, V.D. Polenov, N.A. Yaroshenko, I.I.Levitan, V.A. Serov and others. The exhibitors of the Partnership were MM Antokolsky, V.V. Vereshchagin, A.P. Ryabushkin and others. Having chosen the creative method of critical realism as the basis of their art, the Wanderers turned to a true portrayal of the life and history of a people, their native country, and its nature.

At the first exhibition of the Partnership exhibited “Portrait of FA Vasilyeva" and "Portrait of M.M. Antokolsky".  A year later, the picture “Christ in the Desert” was shown, the design of which had been hatched for several years. According to Kramskoy, "the Bible, the Gospel and the mythology of the former artists served only as a pretext for the expression of their contemporary passions and thoughts". He himself, like Ge and Polenov, in the image of Christ expressed the ideal of a man filled with high spiritual thoughts, preparing himself for self-sacrifice. Here the artist managed to convincingly speak about the problem of moral choice that is very important for the Russian intelligentsia, which confronts everyone who understands their responsibility for the fate of the world, and this rather modest painting is in the history of Russian art.

The heritage of Kramskoy is very unequal. The ideas of his paintings were significant and original, but their implementation was hampered by the limitations of his capabilities as an artist, which he himself was well aware of and tried to overcome by persistent work, but not always successfully.


Memorial plaque. Petersburg, Birzhevaya line, 18

Memorial plaque. Petersburg, Admiralteysky Avenue, 10


Kramsky was most successful in portraiture. He captured many figures of Russian culture: L.N. Tolstoy, I.I. Shishkina, I.A. Goncharova, Ya.P. Polonsky, P.P.Tretyakov, D.V. Grigorovich, M.M. Antokolsky, N.A. Nekrasov, M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin and others; Some of these portraits were written specially by order of P.P.Tretyakov for his art gallery. Images of peasants occupy a special place in the portrait work of Kramsky. One of the most unusual works of Kramskoy's "Unknown" still excites critics and viewers with its mysteriousness.

Kramskoy worked tirelessly and the last years of his life, but a serious illness more and more undermined him; cough choked and tormented him. The constant indisposition, which was so difficult to treat, greatly changed the character of Kramskoy; he became extremely irritable; his views on Russian painting and on Russian artists changed and became pessimistic. In Kramskoy life was declining, but his talent, his artistic power were still strong in him. The death that followed from the aneurysm was instantaneous. Kramskoy fell, working at the easel over the portrait of Dr. Rauhfus, with brushes in his hands, in a lively conversation. And this unfinished portrait of Rauchfus is a bright and brilliant testimony to what Kramsky's artistic power was until the last moment of his life.

In the face of Kramskoy, Russian art and Russian society had an outstanding artist, a sensitive critic and an inspired fighter for everything fresh, good and talented, a tireless fighter against routine, against any brakes that delayed the development of his native art dear to his heart. Many of his critical articles for many years remain deeply important for all, and especially for young artists - they will find in these articles a number of living, bright ideas, true and true views on contemporary art.

Without Ivan Nikolaevich Kramsky, it is impossible to imagine the democratic artistic culture of the second half of the 19th century. Kramskoy is an outstanding figure in the cultural life of Russia in the 1860s – 1880s. The organizer of the Petersburg art artel, one of the founders of the association of the Wanderers, a subtle art critic, passionately interested in the fate of Russian art, he was the ideologue of a whole generation of realist artists.

He was buried in St. Petersburg, in the Necropolis of the art masters of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

Cape on the northern shore of Chekin Bay on Novaya Zemlya. Named in 1901 by artist A.A. Borisov.


Map  Chekin Bay compiled by A.A. Borisov


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