Friday, December 5, 2014

Vasily Tropinin

The Lace-Maker
oil on canvas
size unknown
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Vasily Andreevich Tropinin (1776-1857) was one of the major Russian artists active in the first half of the 19th century. He was born as a serf of Count Munich and then was given as a part of Munich's daughter's dowry to Count Morkov. Much of his life was spent as a serf. He didn't attain his freedom until he was more than forty years old. Although his artistic talent and desire to paint were expressed early, he was sent by Count Morkov to St. Petersburg to learn to be a confectioner. During those years he managed to attend now and then free drawing lessons in the Academy of Arts, until in 1799, at the age of 23, he was sent by his owner to study art in the Academy.

In 1804 his work was exhibited in the Annual Academy of Arts exhibition and was noted by Russian Empress. The President of the Academy of Arts was going to intercede on behalf of Tropinin to get him freedom. Count Morkov, afraid of losing such a valuable possession, urgently recalled Tropinin from St. Petersburg to his Ukrainian estate. There he was crudely reminded that he was only a slave. He was appointed a confectioner and a lackey, also he had to copy the works of European and Russian painters and produce portraits of the Morkovs. During the following years (1804-1821) in Ukraine, with occasional travels with the Morkovs to Moscow, he continued to study art. He created a lot of portraits, landscapes and genre pictures. In 1821, Tropinin with the family of Count Morkov moved to Moscow. Although he was still a serf, he was well known as a talented artist and his friends continued to persuade Count Morkov to give him freedom.

In 1823, at the age of 47, he was finally released from bondage. In the same year he submitted the picture The Lace-Maker to the Academy of Arts and was nominated an academician. The following years were the most prolific for him. He settled in Moscow and opened up his own art studio. Already the well known artist he continued to paint portraits. His models ranged from peasants to the members of the most noble Russian families.