The Russian Itinerants


The Russian Itinerants

Gathering Storm, 1884, Ivan Shishkin
Gathering Storm                     1884                      Ivan Shishkin

   In protest against the rigid academic restrictions of the traditional art academies in Russia, a group of representational art students left the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts in order to form an independent artistic group. The Petersburg Cooperative of Artists was founded in 1863 by fourteen former students. By 1870 it had become the Peredvizhniki (The Itinerants). The group championed the poor, the rural peasants and the beauty of the Russian landscape. They espoused the importance of bringing social and moral responsibility into their artworks by representing the tough everyday life in the countryside under the Czarist system rather than by painting the traditional subjects in the traditional styles of the academy.  Their paintings reflected the contradictions of Russian society at the time at a time when free expression was not allowed.

Photograph of the Russian Itinerants The style of their paintings is often more natural and with a lighter palette. Several painted en plein air. A few were influenced by the beginnings of Impressionism which they saw when traveling to France. An important tenet of the association was to bring art to the people of the provinces living outside of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The society did not take state support. They did work to attract new buyers in order to have a market for the new art. They organized forty-eight exhibitions which traveled to smaller cities throughout the countryside after showing in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The final exhibition of the group was held in 1923 at which point many of the members of the Itinerants went on to join the Association of Artists in Revolutionary Russia.

   Russian art critic Vladimir Stasov wrote: "The artists striving to unite to setup their own society were not doing it for the purpose of creating beautiful paintings and statues for the sole purpose of earning money. They were striving to create something for the minds and feelings of the people."

   Here are some of some of our favorite paintings by the members of the Itinerants.

Abram Arkhipov (1862 - 1930) studied at both the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts. His work is known for its depictions of Russian peasant women in national costumes and traditional garb. He later taught at his alma mater, the Moscow School.

Oil Painting of Village Visitors, 1914, Abram Arkhipov
   Visitors                       1914                    Abram Arkhipov

                   Oil Painting of a Smiling Village Girl, Abram Arkhipov     Oil painting of Sunset Over a Winter Landscape, ca. 1902, Abram Arkhipov
                                            Smiling Girl                               Sunset Over a Winter Landscape      1902

Oil Painting of a Girl with a Candle, date unknown, Pavel Brullov
Pavel Brullov

(1840 - 1914)







Girl with a Candle


 oil painting of a Ukrainian boy outside, by Nikolai Ge

Nikolai Ge
(1831 - 1894)

is most known for his historical and religious paintings. He was born into a Russian noble family. He was orphaned as a child and raised by his nurse. After studying at the Imperial Academy of Arts, Ge traveled throughout Europe and settled in Italy. In what may have been one of the first uses of a photographic reference as base for a painting, Ge used an image in his painting The Last Supper painted from a photograph taken by photographer Count Sergei Lvovich Levitsky.

  Portrait of a Ukrainian Boy

                      oil painting of the Last Supper, by Nikolai Ge, 1863                                The Last Supper                                                                                   1863

                             Oil painting of a Dark Forest Road, by Nikolai Ge                             Oak Grove at San Terenzo                                                                          1867

Kārlis Hūns (1831 - 1877) 

 oil painting of Russian farm scene by Karlis Huns                                     He's Going to Get It                                                                             1875

Nikolay Kasatkin (1859 - 1930)

 oil painting of Russian Peasant, A Miner's Wife, By Nikolay Kasatkin                                                              A Miner's Wife                                                1894

                 oil painting of Russian children in winter landscape, Rivals, 1890, by Nikolay Kasatkin                               Rivals                                                                                                       1890

Alexander Kiselyov (1838 - 1911)

Oil Painting of a Forgotten Mill, 1891, Alexander Kiselyov                            The Forgotten Mill                                                                                                  1891

Ivan Kramskoi
(1837 - 1887) studied at the Saint Petersburg Academy and was ultimately expelled along with others after helping to initiate the revolt against the academic art taught. Kramskoi was committed to the public duties of artists and became one of the founders of the Peredvizhniki. In addition to his portraits of peasants, he also painted portraits of important Russian artists, writers and scientists.

Oil Painting of Children in the Forest, 1887, by Ivan KramskoiChildren in the Forest                                                                        1887

                    Oil Painting of a Russian Beekeeper, 1872, Ivan Kramskoi   Portrait of Ivan Shishkin, 1873, Ivan Kramskoi                      Beekeeper                                    1872         Portrait of Ivan Shishkin                   1873

Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842? - 1910) was orphaned when he was six years old. He received very little education as a child and worked at several menial jobs to earn a living. Later he worked as a retouch artist in photographers' studios. He went to Saint Petersburg where he studied as an irregular student at the Academy of Arts. He would later become a professor and head of landscape workshops there.

Painting of Trees on Valaam Island, 1873, Arkhip Kuindzhi
Valaam Island                                                                                       1873

Oil Painting of Clouds, ca. 1905, Arkhip Kuindzhi
Clouds                                                                                            ca. 1905

Oil Painting of a Russian Housekeeper, 1887, Nikolai Kuznetsov
Nikolai Kuznetsov

(1850 - 1929)

Housekeeper, 1887

Isaac Levitan (1860 - 1900) followed his brother to study at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He received a scholarship to continue his studies after his parents both died and his family fell into poverty. Levitan focused on the beauty of the Russian landscape. His works are called "landscapes of mood". He became world-famous and became the head of the Landscape Studio at the Academy where he had studied. It is written that he once said, "There is no country more beautiful than Russia! There can be a true landscapist only in Russia."

Oil Painting of Sun Shining Through an Aspen Forest, 1897, Isaac Levitan
                                           The Last Rays of the Sun - Aspen Forest                         1897

Oil Landscape Painting, ca. 1895, Isaac Levitan
A Day in June                                                     ca. 1895

An Oil Landscape Painting of Autumn Woods, 1895, Isaac Levitan
Golden Autumn                                                                                   1895

Rafail Levitsky (1847 - 1940) was the son of Count Sergei Lvovich Levitsky, an early pioneer of photography in Russia and Europe.  Rafail Levitsky studied at the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts, later becoming a Professor of Drawing and Painting on Porcelain at the School of Imperial Society of Honouring Visual Arts. He was a close friend of fellow Peredvizhniki artist Ilya Repin and writer, Leo Tolstoy. Levitsky also was a photographer and is known for his portraits of Czar Nicholas II and his family. Levitsky is considered to be one of the first artists to also work as a fine art photographer.

Oil Painting of a Bridge in the Woods, 1885-86. Rafail Levitsky
The Bridge in the Woods                                                                         1885-86

Alexander Litovchenko (1835 - 1890)

Ambassador Horatio Calvucci Sketching the Favorite Falcons of Tsar Alexis I, 1889, Litovchenko                         Ambassador Horatio Calvucci Sketching the Favorite Falcons of Tsar Alexis I  1889

Vladimir Makovsky (1846 - 1920) was born into an artistic family in Moscow. His father was one of the founders of the Moscow Art School and his two brothers and sister also became well known painters. He was also one of the founding members of the Peredvizhniki. His work is known for its irony and sometimes its scorn for the czarist aristocracy. Makovsky put into the subjects of his paintings his strong support of the oppressed.

Painting of a Russian Child with Goose, 1875, Vladimir Makovsky   Painting of Two Russian Peasant Girls, 1877, Vladimir Makovsky

                         The Goose Girl                           1875              Two Peasant Girls                      1877

Painting of a Couple on a Bench on the Boulevard, 1886-87, Vladimir Makovsky
On the Boulevard                                                                       1886-87

Vassily Maximov (1844 - 1911) was orphaned as a child. He learned to paint at an icon painting workshop, and went on to study at the Imperial Academy of Arts. Rather than study abroad, Maximov chose to study and paint the peasant life of the Russian villages. He is considered one of the most prominent members of the Peredvizhniki. Ilya Repin called him "the most uncrushable stone in the foundation of peredvizhnechestvo".

Painting of a Russian Man in the Rye Field 1903 Vassily Maximov
In the Rye Field                                                                                           1903

Painting of a Blind Man 1884 Vassily Maximov
The Blind Man                                                                                 1884

Grigoriy Myasoyedov (1834 - 1911) also studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts. He traveled to Italy, Spain and France on painting trips before returning to teach in Russia. Myasoyedov was one of the founders of the Peredvizhniki. He is known for his sensitive portrayals of peasant life and for his religious paintings.

Painting of a Russian Farmer Sowing Seed 1888 MyasoyedovSower                                                         1888

Landscape Painting of a Road in the Rye 1881 Grigoriy Myasoyedov
The Road in the Rye                                                                               1881

An Impressionistic Painting of Autumn by Leonid Pasternak
Leonid Pasternak
(1862 - 1945)

Pasternak was born in Odessa, the youngest in a large Orthodox Jewish family. He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Pasternak was one of the first Russian artists to label himself as an Impressionist. He became a close friend to Leo Tolstoy, painting his portrait several times and illustrating his novels, War and Peace and Resurrection. Pasternak taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1921 Pasternak moved to Berlin, and, in 1938, to England to flee the Nazis.

The Golden Autumn


Vasily Perov (1834 - 1882) was also one of the founding members of Peredvizhniki. He attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Like many of the other members of the group he traveled to other countries, including Germany and France. Later he became a professor at his alma mater.

Painting of a Man and a Boy Fishing by Vasily Perov   Painting of an Art Teacher with Easel, 1867, Vasily Perov

                      Fishing                                                              The Art Teacher                             1867

Konstantin Pervukhin (1863 - 1915)

Painting of Autumn Trees, 1887, Konstantin Pervukhin                           The End of Autumn                                                                             1887

Vasily Polenov (1844 - 1927) studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. He became a war artist during the Russo-Turkish War. Upon his return from the war, he joined the Peredvizhniki. He worked often en plein air and is mostly known for his landscape paintings, although he also painted biblical artworks. Polenov taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture where his pupils included Isaac Levitan.

A Painting of the Bylinas Narrator Nikita Bogdanov, 1876, Vasily Polenov
The Bylinas Narrator Nikita Bogdanov     1876

A Painting of the River Oka 1918 Vasily Polenov
The River Oka                                                                                                   1918

Illarion Pryanishnikov (1840 - 1894)

A Painting of Men Taunting Another Man, Jokers, 1865, Pryanishnikov
Jokers                                                                                                 1865

Ilya Repin (1844 - 1930) was arguably the most renowned of the Russian artists of his time. He was the first Russian artist to achieve fame in Europe with his paintings depicting specifically Russian themes. As a youth, Repin attended military school while studying art under icon painter Ivan Bunakov. He went on to study at the Imperial Academy of Arts. Repin exhibited at the Salon in Paris as well as with the Peredvizhniki. He committed himself to social statement in his paintings, writing, "Now it is the peasant who is the judge and so it is necessary to represent his interests. (That is just the thing for me, since I am myself, as you know, a peasant, the son of a retired soldier who served twenty-seven hard years in Nicholas I's army.)" In 1901 Repin was awarded the Legion of Honor. He is known for his large body of portraits.

Painting of a Shy Peasant 1877 Ilya Repin
A Shy Peasant                                          1877

Double Portrait ofNatalia Nordmann and Ilya Repin 1903 by Ilya Repin
Double Portrait of Natalia Nordmann and Ilya Repin                                 1903

Painting of Barge Haulers on the Volga, 1870-73, Ilya Repin
Barge Haulers on the Volga                                                                    1870-73

Andrei Ryabushkin (1861 - 1904)

Waiting for Bridal Couple's Return from a Church in Novgorod Province, 1890-91 Painting by Andrei Ryabushkin
Waiting for Bridal Couple's Return from a Church in Novgorod Province     1890-91

Konstantin Savitsky (1844 - 1905) studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, where he worked with other important artists including Ilya Repin and Ivan Shishkin. After his graduation from the Academy and two years of traveling abroad, he became a member of the Peredvizhniki. Savitsky taught for more than twenty years in the art schools of Moscow. One of his most well-known paintings is Repairing the Railroad, portraying the lives of the working class.

A Painting of Crews Repairing the Railroad, 1874, Konstantin Savitsky
Repairing the Railroad                                                                                             1874

Alexei Savrasov (1830 - 1897)

A Painting titled The Rooks Have Come Back, 1871, Savrasov
The Rooks Have Come Back                                  1871

View of the Kremlin from the Krimsky Bridge in Inclement Weather, 1851, Alexei Savrasov
View of the Kremlin from the Krimsky Bridge in Inclement Weather           1851

Valentin Serov (1865 - 1911) was born to Russian composers Alexander Serov and Valentina Bergman. He is most known for his portraits, many of actors, artists and writers. He joined the Peredvizhniki in 1894. Later in his life, he joined the World of Art, an association that was formed in part out of dissatisfaction with the Peredvizhniki. Serov resigned from his membership of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Art in protest of the execution of striking workers on what became known as Bloody Sunday.

Painting of a Girl with Peaches, 1887, Valentin Serov
Girl with Peaches                                             1887

Portrait of the Artist Isaak Ilyich Levitan, 1893, Valentin Serov
Portrait of the Artist Isaak Ilyich Levitan                1893

Emily Shanks (1857 - 1936) was born in Moscow to British parents who founded the Shanks & Bolin, Magasin Anglais (The English Shop). She studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1894 she became the first woman to be elected to the Peredvizhniki. She exhibited work in 19 of their exhibitions. Shanks also exhibited with the Moscow Union of Artists and the Moscow Society for Lovers of the Arts. At the start of World War I, Shanks and most of her family moved back to London where she lived until her death in 1936.

A Girl Picking Up Cucumbers Emily Shanks
A Girl Picking Up Cucumbers

A Painting Titled Employing a Governess, Emily Shanks
Employing a Governess

Ivan Shishkin (1832 - 1898) Shishkin became famous for his poetic studies of nature, notably his forest scenes. He was called the "singer of forest". Shishkin studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture as well as the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts, where he became a professor of painting. He was also a member of the Society of Russian Watercolorists.

A Landscape Painting of the Edge of the Forest, 1866, Ivan Shishkin
Edge of the Forest                                                                                            1866

A Painting of a pine forest with figure, by Ivan Shishkin
Pine Forest                                                    1887

Alexi Stepanov (1858 - 1923) was orphaned as a young child and grew up in the Moscow Orphanage. He became a surveyor, while also auditing classes at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (where he later became a professor). Stepanov is one of the artists of the Peredvizhniki who later left the group (in 1903) to form the Union of Russian Artists.

A Painting of Russian Children Swinging, date unknown, Alexi Stepanov
                                                                                     The Swing                                                                                    
Painting of a Horse and Carriage, date unknown Alexi Stepanov
The Winter Road

Old Man in a Kitchen Garden 1882 Vasily Surikov
Vasily Surikov
(1848 - 1916)

Old Man in a Kitchen Garden, 1882

Vitaly Tikhov
(1876 - 1939)

A Painting of Russian Bathers by Vitaly Tikhov

Viktor Vasnetsov (1848 - 1926) studied in a seminary from the age of ten until moving to Saint Petersburg to study art. He became a friend of the Peredvizhniki leader, Ivan Kramskoi and member Ilya Repin. Repin later invited Vasnetsov to join the Peredvizhniki group in Paris. He is known for his historical and mythological paintings, his illustrations of Russian fairy tales, his cathedral frescos and theater design. Viktor's younger brother, Apollinary Vasnetsov (1856 - 1933), was also an artist. He did not receive a formal artistic education, but studied under his older brother.

Ivan Tsarevitch Riding the Grey Wol,f 1889, Viktor Vasnetsov
Ivan Tsarevitch Riding the Grey Wolf   1889  Viktor Vasnetsov

Three Bogatyrs, date unknown, Viktor Vasnetsov
Ivan Tsarevitch Riding the Grey Wolf             1889          Viktor Vasnetsov

Mountain Lake 1892 Apollinary Vasnetsov
Mountain Lake                        1892                        Apollinary Vasnetsov

Yefim Volkov (1844 - 1920)

Summer Landscape with Fisherman Yefim Volkov
Summer Landscape with Fisherman

Nikolai Yaroshenko (1846 - 1898) was born in what is now Ukraine. Yaroshenko followed in the footsteps of his father, an officer in the Russian army, and pursued a career in the military, while maintaining a study of art. He attended the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts. In 1876, on the strength of his painting Nevsky Prospekt at Night (which was lost in the second World War), he was invited to be a member of the Peredvizhniki. He is considered to be an important member of the group and was often called "the artists' conscience". His painting, The Stoker, was one of the first images of a worker in Russian art. He devoted a considerable amount of his painting time to portraiture, considering it a social duty to paint intellectuals, progressive writers, artists and actors. One of Yaroshenko’s most popular works is titled Life Goes On. It portrays prisoners behind the barred window of the convict wagon. He retired in 1892 as a Major General.

Painting of a Family on Prison Train, Life is Everywhere ,1888, Nikolai Yaroshenko   The Stoker 1878 Nikolai Yaroshenko

                           Life is Everywhere                   1888          The Stoker                                     1878 

The Choir 1894 Yaroshenko
The Choir                                                                                                   1894





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