Arkhip Kuinji

Born: 1842 (?), Mariupole
Died: 1910, St Petersburg

Painter, teacher. Son of a Greek cobbler whose surname was derived from the profession of his Tatar father, who had been a goldsmith (Tatar: kuyumcu). Orphaned at an early age (1845) and forced to earn a living by working at a church building site, for an Italian corn merchant and grazing domestic animals. Worked as a retoucher at photographic studios in Taganrog, Odessa and St Petersburg (1860–65). Studied at Hovhannes Aivazovsky’s studio in Theodosia (1865–66) and at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1868–72). Travelled across Russia, Ukraine, Caucasus and the Crimea. Visited France, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland and Austria (1874–75). Returned to Mariupole and married Vera Ketcherji, daughter of a wealthy Greek merchant (1875). Caused a sensation at exhibitions by employing intense colours to depict the effect of inner illumination (1876–80). Member of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions (1875–80). First-class artist (1878), professor (1892), full member of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1893). Withdrew from exhibiting (1882) and secretly created 500 works in his studio, which no one saw until after his death (1910). Bought a large estate in the Crimea (1888). Taught at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1894–97), but was sacked and placed under house arrest for taking part in a student strike (1897). Continued to give private lessons and donated 100,000 roubles to the Academy to send young artists on foreign trips (1898), 100,000 roubles to the Academy for twenty-four annual prizes (1904) and 11,700 roubles to the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts for landscape painting prizes (1909). Founded the Society of Artists, which was later renamed the Arkhip Kuinji Society, donating 150,000 roubles and all the land he owned in the Crimea (1909). Died in St Petersburg after falling ill in Yalta and was buried at the St Alexander Nevsky Monastery (1910). Contributed to exhibitions (1868–82). Contributed to the exhibitions of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1868–70, 1873), Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions (1874–79), Fourth Annual International Exhibition in London (1874, bronze medal), Exposition Universelle in Paris (1878) and the Pan-Russian Exhibition of Art and Industry in Moscow (1882).

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