Kuznetsov Nikolai Dmitrievich (1850-1929)
One of the most famous and in-demand artists from the last quarter of the XIX century through the 1920s.
He was born on December 2, 1850 on the estate Stepanovka of the Kherson Governorate in Odessa county (now Odessa province), in the family of Kherson landowner. He worked as a portrait and genre painter. He was the father of the famous opera singer, Maria Nikolaevna Kuznetsova-Benois (1880-1966).
The Kuznetsov family firmly settled in the Odessa county. The father, Dmitry Mikhailovich, owned Novomarinovka, Konstantinovka, Dmitrovka, Stepanovka, Maryanovka and Pshonyanoe villages.
He finished Odessa gymnasium. Studies were a burden for him. He wasn’t interested in science and quit school in 7th form. He went back to the village, where he led a carefree life of a landowner’s son and his favorite pastime was hunting.
His mother, Claudia Gavrilovna Kuznetsova (nee. Leontovich), discovered her son’s talent for drawing and took him to Odessa, to a family friend, artist F. D. Malman, one of the best lecturers at the Odessa drawing school. Kuznetsov took lessons from him for a year.
When Nikolai turned 25, he suddenly made an unexpected decision to become an artist and began auditing at the Art Academy. He studied Imperial Arts Academy from 1876 to 1879 intermittently. During his studies he was awarded three silver medals.
Acquaintance with I. E. Repin, I. N. Kramskoy, I. I. Shishkin had a huge impact on Kuznetsov’s view on art and aesthetics. Close contact with V. D. Polenov, V. M. Vasnetsov, V. A. Serov formed and helped the artist to improve his skill.
The period of creative development was very brief. His natural talent and skill allowed him to successfully solve complex pictorial problems. He quickly gained fame and popularity.
The first participation in the IX exhibition of the Peredvizhniki in 1881 was extremely successful, and all of the four paintings, that the artist exhibited, were purchased by P. M. Tretyakov for his gallery. From this time on, the artist participated in all exhibitions of the Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions. In 1883 he became a member of the Society.
Like most of the members of the Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions, Kuznetsov considered it his duty to paint the portraits of prominent people of that time. In portraits he sought to reveal the inner world of a person, to determine his social significance and to reveal complex psychological characteristics.
In 1887 he became one of the founders of the Society of South Russian Artists and a regular participant at their exhibitions. He also participated in international exhibitions and exhibitions of Russian art abroad.
Professor, head of the atelier of military art at Higher Art School of the Academy of Arts from 1895. However, he wasn’t interested in pedagogy, so he went back to Odessa in 1897 and entirely devoted himself to art. Nikolai acquired a piece of land which was once a part of general Liders’ estate and started to build a gallery and an atelier.
In 1900, the Art Gallery was opened. The collection included paintings by I. Repin, V. Serov, I. Kramskoy, V. Vasnetsov, I. Pokhitonov, paintings by French artists of the Salon and the Champs de Mars, artists J. Alexander, L. Delamo, S. Kotte, G. Latouche, F. Taulov etc. This gallery played a significant role in determining art views of Odessa painters.
N. D. Kuznetsov was very popular in Odessa and received a lot of commissions. His atelier was a center of a kind, where not only local artists, but I. E. Repin, V. A. Polenov, M. A. Vrubel, F. I. Shalyapin, P. K. Saksaganski and many other prominent artists spent time as well.
At the World exhibitions in Paris, in 1889 and in 1900, he was awarded with silver medals.
In 1900 Academy of Arts awarded him a title of academician for the fame in the field of art.
At the beginning of 1920 he emigrated to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes with his family, where he lived in Vrsac, Bela Crkva, Rijeka and Sarajevo. He participated in the exhibition of the Russian Painting and Sculpture in the Brooklyn Museum (1923) and in the exhibition of the Society of Russian Artists in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1928).
The artist’s works are exhibited at galleries all around the world. It is worth mentioning that N. D. Kuznetsov’s paintings are extremely rare in the art market. His portrait was painted by Repin (1884, National Museum in Belgrade). He served Repin as a model for the paintings „Temptation of Christ“ (Devil), „Nikolai the Miracle Worker Stops execution“ (executioner), „Zaporozhian Cossacks write a letter to the Turkish Sultan“ (Zaporozhian Cossack with a bandage on his forehead).
N. D. Kuznetsov painted scenes from peasant life and rural landscapes: „Estate tour“ (1879), „Earning money“ (1882), „A herd of pigs“ (1886), „After lunch“, „World Mediator“, „In his garden“.
Nikolai Dmitrievich Kuznetsov painted portraits of many famous people:
1. Artist Ilya Efimovich Repin;
2. Artist Ivan Pavlovich Pokhitonov;
3. Artist Victor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov;
4. Artist Apolinary Mikhailovich Vasnetsov;
5. Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky;
6. Opera singer Feodor Ivanovich Shalyapin;
7. Lieutenant-General Andrei Alexandrovich Nilus;
8. Prince Ivan Nikolaevich Cantacuzène;
9. Count Mikhail Mikhailovich Tolstoy;
10. Artist Mikhail Vasilievich Nesterov;
11. Artist Efim Efimovich Volkov;
12. Artist Albert Nikolaevich Benois;
13. Maria Nikolaevna Kuznetsova-Benois;
14. Artist Gerasim Semenovich Golovkov;
15. A. S. Mamontova;
16. Artist Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov;
17. Natalia Vasilievna Polenova (1858-1931), wife of the artist V.D. Polenov;
18. Count Alexander Grigorievich Stroganov (1795—1891) a member of the State Council, Governor General of Novorossia and Bessarabia;
19. Ludmila Nikolaevna Grosup-Tolstaya – artist’s daughter.
Paintings by Nikolai Dmitrievich Kuznetsov are exhibited at the following museums:
1. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (9 paintings, including portraits of the artists Ivan Pavlovich Pokhitonov, Victor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov, Apolinary Mikhailovich Vasnetsov, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky);
2. The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg (2 paintings, including a portrait of the artist Ilya Efimovich Repin);
3. A. A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, Moscow;
4. Literary Museum of the Institute of Russian Literature (part of the Russian Academy of Sciences);
5. St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music (portrait of Maria Nikolaevna Kuznetsova-Benois and others);
6. The State Memorial Historical, Artistic and Natural Museum-Reserve of Vasily Polenov (portrait of the artist Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, portrait of Natalia Vasilievna Polenova, wife of the artist V.D. Polenov and others);
7. Tchaikovsky State House-Museum in Klin;
8. The Bashkir Nesterov Art Museum is an art museum in Ufa (portrait of the artist Mikhail Vasilievich Nesterov and others);
9. Arkhangelsk Regional Fine Arts Museum;
10. Berdyansk Art Museum of Brodskiy;
11. Voronezh Regional Art Museum. I. Kramskoy (portrait of the artist Efim Efimovich Volkov and others);
12. Sampilov Art Museum in Ulan-Ude;
13. The far-Eastern Museum of Fine Arts, Khabarovsk;
14. Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum (portrait of the artist Albert Nikolaevich Benois and others);
15. Zaporozhsky Art Museum;
16. Irkutsk Regional Art Museum after the name of V. P. Sukachev;
17. Kologrivsky Museum of Regional Studies;
18. The Abramtsevo Museum-Estate. Portrait of A. S. Mamontova and others;
19. Museum of Horse-Breeding, Moscow;
20. Rostov Regional Museum of Fine Arts;
21. The Glinka Museum of Musical Culture, Moscow;
22. The V. V. Vereshchagin Mykolaiv (Nikolayev) Art Museum;
23. Rybinsky State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-reserve;
24. Kherson regional museum of art by A. Shovkunenko;
25. Chelyabinsk Region Art Museum;
26. National Art Museum of The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia);
27. Turkmen Museum of Fine Arts, Ashgabat;
28. National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kiev;
29. The Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine;
30. Alupka Vorontsov Palace-museum;
31. Lviv National Museum;
32. Odessa Art museum, Ukraine (portraits of opera singer Feodor Ivanovich Shalyapin, Lieutenant-General Andrei Alexandrovich Nilus, Prince Ivan Nikolaevich Cantacuzène, Count Mikhail Mikhailovich Tolstoy and others);
33. Odessa State Museum of Local History (Count Alexander Grigorievich Stroganov (1795—1891) a member of the State Council, Governor General of Novorossia and Bessarabia and others);
34. Donetsk Regional Art Museum;
35. The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, Minsk;
36. The National Museum in Belgrade, Serbia (portrait of the artist Gerasim Semenovich Golovkov, portrait of Ludmila Nikolaevna Grosup-Tolstaya – artist’s daughter and others);
37. The City Museum of Vršac, Serbia;
38. The National Museum in Warsaw, Poland;
39. Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, and others.