Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin

Born: 1878, Khvalynsk (Saratov Province)
Died: 1939, Leningrad

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, art theorist, writer. Studied at Fyodor Burov’s school of painting and drawing in Samara (1893–95), Baron Stieglitz Central School of Technical Drawing in St Petersburg (1895–97), under Abram Arkhipov, Konstantin Gorsky, Nikolai Kasatkin and Valentin Serov at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1897–1904), at Anton Ažbè’s school in Munich (1901) and the Académie Colarossi and other private schools in Paris (1906–08), where he met and married Maria Jovanovic, the daughter of Serbian hotel-keepers (1906). Visited London (1904), Italy (1905–06), North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Sahara Desert) and the Pyrenees (1907). Lived in St Petersburg (from 1908). Collaborated with Pavel Kuznetsov and Pyotr Utkin on frescoes for the Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Saratov, which were considered blasphemous and rejected by the Russian Orthodox Church (1902). Developed his own unique technique, combining the aesthetics of Orthodox icons with bright colours and an unusual spherical perspective bringing in the spherical curve of the globe. Member of the Union of Russian Artists (from 1909), World of Art (1910–23), Four Arts (1924–28, founding member) and the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (from 1931). Designed the sets and costumes for a performance of Friedrich Schiller’s play Die Jungfrau von Orleans at the Konstantin Nezlobin Theatre in Moscow (1913). Taught at the Elizaveta Zvantseva School of Painting and Drawing in St Petersburg (1910–15), Society for the Mutual Benefit of Russian Artists (1911–12), Petrograd State Free Art Studios/VKhUTEMAS/VKhUTEIN (1918–21) and the Academy of Arts (1921–38). Decorated the streets of Petrograd on the first anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, member of the Commission for Art of the Petrograd Soviet (1918). Travelled to Samarkand with the Academy of the History of Material Culture (1921). Member of Four Arts (from 1924). Lived and worked in France at the request of the Academy of Arts (1924–25) and in Detskoe Selo near Leningrad (from 1927). Contracted tuberculosis (1927). Honorary member of the Société Astronomique de France (1927), Honoured Artist of the RSFSR (1930). Worked for the Alexander Pushkin Theatre of Drama in Leningrad (1920s–30s). Wrote three semi-autobiographical books – Samarkandia (1923), Khlynovsk (1930) and Euclidean Space (1933). Elected first chairman of the Leningrad branch of the Union of Artists (1932). Travelled with Anatoly Proshkin to Novgorod (1936) and Perm (1938). Died in Leningrad and buried at the Volkovo Cemetery (1939) beneath a gravestone sculpted by Boris Kaplyansky (1953). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1898). Contributed to the Salon d’Automne in Paris (1906, 1908), Sergei Makovsky Salon (1909), Golden Fleece Salon (1909), Union of Russian Artists (1909, 1910), Union of Youth (1910), World of Art (1910–24), Manet and the Post-Impressionists in London (1912), Russian Landscapes (1918), First Free Exhibition of Works of Art (1919), Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (1923, 1928), Fire-Colour (1924), Women in Russian Painting (1925), Four Arts (1925–28), Engraving of the USSR Over Ten Years (1928), Artists of the RSFSR Over Fifteen Years in Leningrad (1932) and Moscow (1933), First Exhibition of Leningrad Artists (1935), exhibitions of Russian and Soviet art in New York (1924), Berlin (1927–28), Prague (1928), Stockholm (1928), Oslo (1928), Copenhagen (1928), Brussels (1928), Vienna (1928, 1930), Cologne (1929) and Philadelphia (1934), Exposition Universelle et Internationale in Brussels (1910), international exhibitions in Rome (1911), Malmö (1914, gold medal), Venice (1924, 1928, 1932, 1934), Paris (1925), Dresden (1926), Pittsburgh (1928) and the United States (1934–35) and one-man shows in St Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad (1909, 1920, 1936, 1947, 1966, 1980), Moscow (1937, 1965, 1984, 2001–02), Prague (1967) and Saratov (1967, 2008).

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