Borisov Alexander Alekseevich

Polar explorer-artist. In the history of Russian culture and painting, he occupies a special place. It combined the artist's gift and thirst for exploring the North, studying its geography and natural resources. That is why the pictures about the North were not episodes in his work, but made up its very essence. Borisov can rightfully be considered the founder of the polar genre.
Borisov was born in the small northern village of Glubokyi Stream, not far from Krasnoborsk (Solvychegodsky district of the Vologda province) on the Northern Dvina, in the family of a peasant migrant. Need and hard work accompanied him until the end of the Academy of Arts. Severe childhood and youth did not bend Borisov, on the contrary, they hardened his character, instilled in him those qualities that are necessary for the person who linked his life with the North. The gloomy, overwhelming beauty of the North attracted and beckoned him. Being "a northerner for the soul and birth, all his life from early youth only dreamed of going there, upwards, beyond the borders of the Arkhangelsk province". As a student in 1894, Borisov, as a draftsman, participated in the trip of S.Yu. Witte in the North of Russia and Norway. In 1896, he, together with the expedition of the Academy of Sciences, first visited Novaya Zemlya.

Attraction to the North forced Borisov to organize their own expeditions. In 1897, he made a great journey through the Bolshezemelskaya tundra and Fr. Vaigach, from whom he brought “two pounds of sketches”, revealing the beauty of blossoming tundra and floating ice, a number of sketches from the life of the Nenets, as well as travel notes, reflecting the poverty and deprivation of the local population, the disorder of their life.


From the Arkhangelsk Museum of Art Development of the Arctic named after A.A. Borisov

In the navigation of 1899, Borisov set off to Novaya Zemlya, delivering there a forest for the house and equipment for a future big expedition. On the tiny yacht "Dream" he passed through the ice of Matochkin Shar and unloaded equipment in the Chekin Bay area. That year, due to the harshest ice conditions, only Borisov’s yacht could get through to the Kars side.


Borisov's Yacht  "Dream", overwhelmed by the ice in Matochkin Shar

Artist A.A. Borisov


In 1900 - 1901, Borisov’s last and most productive trip to Novaya Zemlya took place. He built a house at the western entrance in the strait Matochkin  Shar in the Pomorskaya Guba, and with eight satellites went to the “Dream” in the Kara Sea. After unloading food at Chekin Bay on the way back, they were forced to leave the vessel, which was polluted with ice, and set off for Ice to go to Novaya Zemlya. They had to throw the boats, except for a small boat-icehouse, most of the food and equipment, the dogs died. The distance traveled during the day was compensated by reverse drift at night. Fortunately, the ice floe with weakened people still washed ashore south of Matochkin Shar. The Nenets fishing artel accidentally found here saved them. For three weeks, the 400-kilometer crossing of Novaya Zemlya continued. Only in November, travelers arrived at their home in the Pomeranian Bay, where they winterized. Wintering was successful, thanks to a well-established life and nutrition.
In April 1901, Borisov with his assistant zoologist T.E. Timofeev and Nenets Ustinov Kanyukov on three dog sleds went to the Kara side. On this trip, Borisov wrote hundreds of sketches and sketches, which he used to create his world famous paintings. In addition, valuable geological, zoological and botanical collections were collected, as well as for the first time mapped the internal parts of the gulfs of Medvezhy, Neznaimy and Chekina, which penetrated deep into the land, where no man’s foot had gone before. Travelers also made their way back on foot or by boat and in August reached their home in the Pomeranian Bay. The sea to the horizon was covered with ice, but this did not scare polar explorers. They were provided with everything necessary for wintering. However, after a few days, the steamer suddenly appeared. It turned out to be the Pakhtusov Hydrographic Expedition under the direction of A.I. Vilkitsky and A.I. Varnek, whom they met earlier in Matochkin Ball. Now the ship has come from the Gribovaya Bay, where it was saved from the pressure of the ice. Having accepted a kind offer from Vilkitsky, Borisov and his assistants embarked on a ship and arrived in Arkhangelsk in early September.


Coast of the Novaya Zemlya in the area of ​​the bays Unknowable and Bear

The vast majority of Borisov's geographical names are memorials associated with people close to him. Here the names of his patrons are S. Yu. Vitte (glacier), A.A. Bogolyubov (cape, mountain ), M.I. Kazi (cape, mountain), P.M. Tretyakov (Glacier), B.A. Yalovetskiy (cape), I.I. Tolstoy (cape), P.P. Semenov (bay). Another group of names is the names of prominent Russian artists I.Е. Repin (cape), I.N. Kramskoy (cape), V.V. Vereshchagin (cape), V.M. Vasnetsov (cape, glacier), including his teachers I. I. Shishkin (cape, mountain) and A.I. Kuinji (cape). He did not give his name to any object.
The talent of Borisov the artist was appreciated by I.E. Repin and V.M. Vasnetsov. After their appreciation, the founder of the Moscow Art Gallery, P.M. Tretyakov already in 1896,  acquired 66 etudes and paintings by Borisov. After the artist returned from the Arctic, a lot of work and triumphal exhibitions of paintings in many of the largest cities in Europe and America awaited.


Chekina Bay

Bear Bay

Rozmyslov Bay (Unknowable)

The problems of the North occupied Borisov even after he ceased to participate in Arctic expeditions. Being a champion of industrial development of the North, Borisov was among those who had lost faith in the possibility of regular navigation in the Arctic seas and became an ardent supporter of the development of railway communications in the north of Russia. In 1908, he made a project for the construction of the Ob-Murmansk railway (Ob-Kotlas-Soroka with access from Kotlas to St. Petersburg). In 1918, Borisov and the Norwegian banker E. Gannevig turned to the Soviet government with a proposal for a concession for the construction of this road, which they called the Great Northern Route. The proposal was reviewed and approved by the Council of People's Commissars, but it was not possible to implement it for financial reasons.
The last years of his life, Borisov lived in his house near Krasnoborsk. As soon as the Civil War ended, he began to implement his long-standing idea of ​​creating a resort near his home on the basis of a mineral spring. He succeeded in many respects thanks to N.A. Semashko.
Borisov’s wife did not want to live “in this bearish corner” and insisted on moving to Berlin. The artist decidedly refused to leave his homeland. In 1922, his wife and adoptive daughter, the last steamer to Arkhangelsk, went abroad.


House A. A. Borisov in Krasnoborsk


Art already took little of Borisov. He devoted himself to the work of the manager of the Solonikha resort created by him, dealt with the economic problems of the North, was a freelance employee of the USSR State Planning Committee. He was repeatedly offered a job and a good apartment in Moscow, but he refused.
In 1932, three spring months, Borisov spent with his wife in Berlin. Here he again saw his paintings, which prompted him to create for the Arkhangelsk Museum a large canvas “Augustus Midnight in the Kara Sea”.

The services of Borisov were awarded the Order of St. Vladimir of 4 degrees, the English Order of the Bath, the French Order of the Legion of Honor, the Norwegian Order of St. Olaf.

Arkhangelsk Museum of Art Development of the Arctic named after A.A. Borisov

Death interrupted this job. He was buried in the rural cemetery near Krasnoborsk.

In 1974, on the 40th anniversary of the death of Borisov, a monument to the artist was unveiled in his homeland in the village of Krasnoborsk.
The peninsula on the eastern coast of the northern island of Novaya Zemlya between the gulfs of Chekina and the Unknowable. The name was approved in 1973 by the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR on the proposal of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the standing Interdepartmental Commission on Geographical Names under the General Directorate of Geodesy and Cartography under the Council of Ministers of the USSR.


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