Carl Magnus Wittberg

Born: 1787, Reval (now Tallinn)
Died: 1855, St Petersburg

Architect, painter, draughtsman. Son of a Swedish painter called Lorentz Wittberg (1753–1834), who moved to Reval (1773), where he taught German and married a widow called Anna-Elisabeth Spaetter (1778). Born in Reval (1787) and moved with his family to St Petersburg (1779), where his father taught at the school of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. Educated at the School of Mining (1795–98) and the boarding school of the Lutheran Church of St Anne (1798–1802). Studied history painting under Grigory Ugryumov at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1802–07). Awarded a minor silver medal (1806) and a major gold medal and fellowship at the Academy (1807), where he worked as an assistant to Grigory Ugryumov (1807–09) and won two gold medals (1808, 1809). Joined Alexander Labzin’s Dying Sphinx masonic lodge (mid-1800s). Painted views of St Petersburg and compositions for the Kazan Cathedral (1800s). Moved to Moscow (1813), where he painted portraits of heroes of the Patriotic War and took up architecture. Designed the house of the poet Ivan Dmitriyev in Moscow (1814), a church in the village of Velichovo in Smolensk Province (1815), the iconostasis in the domestic chapel of Prince Alexander Golitsyn in St Petersburg (1816), a rotunda in the Church of the Resurrection at the New Jerusalem Monastery (1818) and the domestic chapel of the Alexander Institute for Orphans in Moscow (1833). Won the initial competition to design the Church of Christ the Saviour on the Sparrow Hills (1815). Academician of painting (1816). Married his former student Elizaveta Artemieva (1816) and a poor girl called Eudokia Puzyrevskaya (1834). Adopted Russian Orthodoxy and took the name of Alexander in honour of his sponsor Tsar Alexander I (1817). After the accession of Tsar Nicholas I (1825), the Neoclassical design for the Church of Christ the Saviour was considered too mystical and abandoned in favour of a more Neo-Byzantine project (1826). Investigated over the misappropriation of construction funds (1827–35), accused of stealing one million roubles and banished to Vyatka (1835). Met Alexander Herzen (1835), who portrayed him in My Past and Thoughts (1868). Designed the main entrance to the Alexander Gardens (1838–40) and the St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Vyatka (1838–64). Allowed to return to St Petersburg (1840), where he designed tombstones, obelisks and a proposed St George’s Cathedral in Tiflis (1847). Suffered a stroke after the death of his second wife (1851) and the loss of most of his drawings in a house fire (1854). Died in poverty in St Petersburg and buried at the Volkovo Cemetery (1855). Dictated memoirs to Alexander Herzen published posthumously in Russkaya starina in Moscow (1872). Honoured by a posthumous exhibition in Stockholm (1993–94).

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