Victor Vasnetsov was born 15 in May 1848 in the Russian village of Lopyal, Vyatka province (today Kirov region) in the family of Orthodox priest Mikhail Vasnetsovich Vasnetsov. Two years after the birth of Victor, his father received a parish in the village of Ryabovo, located in the same county. It was here that the future artist's childhood passed. The village priest’s family lived like the rest of the village’s peasants, not rich and simple. At the same time, Victor had five brothers, since their mother died very early, they all together helped their father to run the household.
Being a well-educated person, Mikhail Vasilyevich tried to give his sons versatile education. He taught them arithmetic and literacy, and also tried to develop observation and inquisitiveness of the mind in them. Vasnetsov liked to engage in wood carving, paint with watercolors, read scientific journals. An isolated way of life, a rather severe nature, ancient customs and village songs and legends formed the life and artistic worldview of the future painter. Victor and his brother Apollinarius, who was also engaged in painting, as a child absorbed this fantastic atmosphere of the “ancient deep legends”, which in the future became the main theme and peculiarity of their work.
According to the tradition of the Vasnetsov family, the sons were to continue the work of their ancestors, that is, to become priests. For this reason, in 1858, Mikhail Vasilyevich sent his eldest son Viktor to a religious school. The future famous artist studied at the school until 1862, after which he entered the Vyatka Theological Seminary. Here, in addition to the Holy Scriptures, he studied icon painting. He took lessons from church painting from the artist Chernyshev, who had an icon-painting workshop in Vyatka (Kirov). Vasnetsov, who dreamed of painting, soon decided to continue his studies in Petersburg at the Academy of Arts. With the blessing of his father and rector, he left the penultimate seminary course and moved to St. Petersburg. To collect money for the journey, he wrote and sold two genre paintings "Reaper" and "Milkmaid".
Further, the artist's biography developed as follows. Arriving in St. Petersburg, he reached the cherished Academy and passed the entrance exams, awaiting notice of the results. However, he did not wait for a notice. This happened not because he did not act, but because of an annoying mistake, for some reason the notice was not delivered to him. In fact, Viktor Vasnetsov entered immediately, but he found out about it only a year later. Deciding that he would try to enroll again, but the following year, Vasnetsov in 1867, went to the school of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists, where he improved his skills and skills, at the same time, earning his living, performing illustrations for various magazines, books and giving private painting lessons.
His friendship with Repin, Kramsky, Stasov, Antokolsky began at the Academy. And of the academic teachers, Vasnetsov remembered P. Chistyakov forever, who immediately sensed the remarkable talent of the young man and worked with him, encouraging him with failures and rejoicing in victories. “A lot of warmth and light brought conversations with Pavel Petrovich Chistyakov into my life,” the famous artist later said. During his studies, fate forced Vasnetsov to leave the academy. In 1870, the artist's father died, after which he was forced to leave for Ryabovo, in order to take care of his brothers. Back in the capital, he returned with his youngest 16-year-old brother Apollinaris, who will also become a famous artist in the future. As a result, Vasnetsov had to work even more to provide for his brother. Since 1871, due to lack of time and illness, he began to attend classes irregularly.
During these years he was able to fulfill the order of 200 illustrations for the Folk Alphabet, the Russian Alphabet for the Children of Vodovozov, the Soldier Alphabet of Stolpyansky. They also illustrated the fairy tales The Firebird, The Little Humpbacked Horse and many others. Along with illustrations, he also worked on independent paintings. Gradually, Vasnetsov finally lost interest in studying at the Academy, he abandoned classes and lectures and did not even begin to pass the final exams. Forced to earn a living and, yielding to the desire to improve in painting on his own, he eventually left the academy, receiving a clerical certificate that was one of her students.
In the spring of 1876, Vasnetsov went to Paris, where he had long been called Repin, Kramsky and Polenov. Along the way, he received an order for illustrations for the book by Vodovozova “The Life of European Peoples”. In France, the painter tried to explore the life and be French, the result of his observations was the painting "Balagan in the vicinity of Paris" (1877 year). He returned back to Russia a year later, after which he got married with Alexandra Vladimirovna Ryazantseva. In this case, the artist built his family in the likeness of his father's family. Without one year 50 years lived Viktor Vasnetsov in a happy family harmony. At the same time, not so much is known about the artist’s family life. The portraits that have survived to our days allow us to see his wife, one of his daughter Tatiana, as well as the sons of Boris and Vladimir.
In 1878, Viktor Vasnetsov moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The monumental city on the Neva did not make an impression on the artist. While in Moscow, passion for antiquity arose even more. After the painter moved to Moscow, he was immediately accepted into the Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions. By this time, the artist's style has changed significantly, in Moscow he is moving closer to Tretyakov and Mamontov, which also influenced him. It was in this city that the artist Vasnetsov was truly revealed. He liked being in Moscow, here he always felt easy and could solve a variety of creative work.
As he later recalled the artist's wife, moving to live in Moscow, he loved to roam the ancient streets of the capital. Returning home, he often said: "How many miracles I have seen today." He later recalled that in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral he could not hold back his tears. What he experienced and what he saw matured in him in the painting “Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich the Terrible”, which was conceived at the turn of the 1880-s, and finally executed in the 1897 year.
In 1878, Viktor Vasnetsov painted the famous painting “After the Battle of Igor Svyatoslavovich with the Polovtsy”, which was one of the first in the historical-epic cycle he had realized. In this work, the artist wanted to glorify the heroism of the Russian warriors in a poetic and solemnly sad way, as the creator of Lay of Igor had done in his time. That is why he depicted not the horrors of battle, but the greatness of death for the Motherland. At the same time, during the life of the artist, the painting did not meet with unanimous approval from the public. This work was so unusual that there could not be a single opinion about it for that period of time. Immediately only Repin and Chistyakov could feel the “most important” in this work of Vasnetsov.
Despite the fact that most critics of those years did not recognize the picture, Vasnetsov decided not to abandon the chosen path and by the year 1882 created another work in this direction - the painting “The Knight at the Crossroads”. In his work, the master portrayed the twilight steppe, the field of a past battle with scattered bones of the fallen. A warning stone was depicted at the crossroads. The knight who had stopped in front of him was immersed in difficult thoughts (the idea of marking an epic inscription on a dense stone by the artist was suggested by Stasov). In the image of a knight standing at a crossroads, the artist, though unacceptably portrayed himself, his hard thoughts about the future.
While in the capital, Viktor Vasnetsov met the family of Savva Mamontov, which was an important event in his entire life. This philanthropist quickly ordered three paintings to be installed in the meeting hall of the Donetsk Railway: “Russian Battle with Scythians”, “Carpet-Plane” and “Three Tsarevna of the Underworld”. “The first of the ordered paintings was to depict the distant past of the Donetsk region, the second was a fabulous way of transformation, and the third — the princesses of gold, precious stones and coal — a symbol of the deities of the earth’s awakened region” - Mamontov’s son later recalled the idea of these works. All three paintings were as life-affirming as the fairy tales themselves.
But perhaps the most important work in the work of the artist Victor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov was a large-scale canvas entitled “Heroes” (1881-1898 years, exhibited in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow). From the idea of this plot and the appearance in the form of a pencil sketch to its complete embodiment on a huge canvas, almost 20 years passed. Even after buying a work by famous patron Tretyakov, who placed the picture in a public gallery, Vasnetsov continued to make amendments to it for some time.
Today it is known that the figures of the three main epic defenders of Russia - the bogatyrs Ilya Muromets, Alyosha Popovich and Dobrynia Nikitich were created by the artist from the models who were fully dressed in real clothes of the old Russian knights, which they were able to borrow from the storerooms of the Historical Museum. Some works by Viktor Vasnetsov, such as the painting “Heroes”, were highly appreciated during his lifetime. One of the highest confessions of his merits was the appropriation in 1912 of the year to him by the life nobility of the Russian Empire, which extended to all his descendants.
The famous artist died on July 23 1926 on the 79 year of life. After taking the evening tea, he went to his room. A few minutes later, Vasnetsov’s family heard something fall to the floor. It is reported that the painter died of a broken heart, death was instantaneous and did not cause him any suffering. It is said that only a soul can go away who is busy searching for divine beauty and truth, finding peace in heaven. Many contemporaries only after the death of the artist were able to appreciate his creative path. He was buried in Moscow at the Lazarevskoye Cemetery, after the destruction of this cemetery, the artist’s ashes were transferred to the Vvedenskoye Cemetery (formerly German Cemetery and Inoverian Cemetery) of the capital in the Lefortovo district.
Vasnetsov's work survived the artist himself for many years. He became a real discoverer of the wonderful world of folk poetry, managed to introduce the viewer into the realm of epics, fairy tales, historical legends. Vasnetsov managed to find new pictorial means that were equivalent to epic fairy-tale images and speech patterns. Skillfully introducing into his works a real landscape, however colored with a certain mood (drooping grasses, a blood-red moon rising over the battlefield, forest jungles, etc.), the artist touched the deep spiritual strings, forcing the audience to empathize with the image he saw. The painting of Viktor Vasnetsov was marked by monumental and decorative features, and quite often she even gravitated towards symbolism, sometimes, as if anticipating later works written in the Art Nouveau style.
Based on materials from open sources