Pavel Andreyevich Fedotov (Па́вел Андре́евич Федо́тов June 22 1815, Moscow – November 14, 1852, St. Petersburg) was an amateur Russian painter and graphic artist, academician of painting, ancestor of critical realism in Russian painting. He was known as a Russian Hogarth. He was only 37 years old when he died in a mental clinic.
Pavel Andreevich Fedotov was born in Moscow on June 22, 1815 in the family of Andrei Illarionovich Fedotov, who served in the army during the time of Catherine and received the discharge of the rank of lieutenant and nobility, subsequently impoverished titular adviser, and his wife Natalia Alexeyevna Kalashnikova. Baptized on July 3 in the church of Kharitonia in Ogorodniki, Nikitsky magpie. In addition to Paul, the family had a few more children.
At age 11, he was identified by his father in the First Moscow Cadet Corps, where due to his good abilities and exemplary behavior, he attracted the attention of his superiors. In 1830 he was promoted to non-commissioned officers, and in 1832 – to sergeant-major, and in the same year he graduated with honors, and, according to custom, his name was added to the honorary marble plaque in the assembly hall of the corps. His favorite subjects were mathematics and chemistry, but in his spare time he liked to draw.
October 3, 1833 was issued the highest decree on the production of Fedotov in the first officer’s rank. In January 1834, in the rank of ensign, he was sent to serve in the Life Guards Finnish Regiment in St. Petersburg, where he served for 10 years. After 3-4 years of service in the regiment, the young officer began attending evening lessons in drawing at the Academy of Arts, where he diligently studied the forms of the human body, drawing them from plaster models. In his spare time he practiced at home, drawing watercolor and pencil portraits of his colleagues, scenes of regimental life and caricatures. The portraits were always very similar, but Fedotov’s facial features and the figure of the Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, whose images came out from under his hand, were willingly bought by sellers of paintings and prints.
In February 1837, as part of his regiment, along with the whole guard corps, he took part in a 167-mile campaign along the Pulkovo-Izhora-Tosno-Tsarskoe Selo-Gatchina-Krasnoye Selo-Petersburg route. For participation in this campaign together with other officers received the highest gratitude.
In the summer of 1837, the Grand Duke, returning to St. Petersburg from a trip abroad for treatment, visited Krasnoselsky camp, where the guards adored him and met the prince with a noisy ovation. The picturesque meeting of the prince with the military made a great impression on Fedotov, and in just 3 months the artist painted a watercolor picture “Meeting the Grand Duke” (for writing this picture for the first time in his service Fedotov was on vacation). The picture was shown to the Grand Duke, who granted the artist a diamond ring. This award, according to Fedotov, “was finally imprinted in his soul artistic self-esteem.” After this, the artist began the painting “Consecration of the Banners in the Winter Palace, renovated after the fire,” but, in order to improve his financial situation, he decided to present the unfinished picture to the Grand Duke. The latter showed it to his august brother, which resulted in the highest command: “to give the drawing officer a voluntary right to leave the service and devote himself to painting with a content of 100 rubles. Bank notes per month “.
Pavel Andreevich wondered for a long time whether to take advantage of his royal favor, but, at last, he applied for resignation, and on January 3, 1844, was fired with the rank of captain and the right to wear a military uniform. After parting with the epaulettes, he found himself in difficult living conditions: for a meager pension of 28 rubles 60 kopecks a month, granted by the sovereign, it was necessary to support himself, help the family who had fallen into need, hire sitters, acquire materials and allowances for work. But the love of art supported Fedotov optimism, helped him to deal with difficult circumstances and persistently go to the goal – to become a real artist.
After retiring, at first Pavel Andreevich chose the battle genre for himself as an art field in which he had already successfully tried his forces and which promised the honor and material security in the Nicholas epoch. Having settled in a poor apartment in one of the distant lines of the Vasilievsky Island, contented with a 15-penny dinner from the kitchen, he was even more eager than before to practice drawing and writing sketches from life both at home and in academic classes.
In order to expand the range of his battle scenes, which were previously limited to infantry, Pavel Andreevich began to study the skeleton and musculature of a horse under the direction of Professor Zaurveid. Of the works conceived by Fedotov at this time, but remained only in sketches, the most remarkable, according to his friends’ recall, were “French marauders in the Russian village in 1812”, “The crossing of the waggons across the river on maneuvers”, “Evening amusements in the barracks On the occasion of the regimental festival “and several compositions on the theme” Barracks Life “, composed under the influence of Hogarth.
Wit, subtle observation, ability to notice the typical features of people of different classes, knowledge of the situation of their lives, the ability to convey the character of a person – all these qualities of talent, clearly manifested in Fedotov’s drawings, indicated that the artist’s true vocation was genre painting. In this choice, the artist was partly helped by the letter of the fabulist Krylov, who saw some works by Fedotov and advised him to do genre painting. After listening to this advice, according to the sketches in his album, Pavel Andreevich painted oil one after another two pictures: “Fresh Chevalier” (1848, another name: “The Morning of the Official Who Received the First Cross”) (1846) and The Picky Bride (1847, On the plot of Krylov’s fables).
Fedotov showed them to Bryullov, who was all-powerful in those years at the Academy of Arts, who was delighted. The Council of the Academy Fedotov was nominated for the title of academician and received a cash allowance, which allowed him to continue the initiated picture “Matchmaking Major” (1848, 1851 – second option). This picture was ready for an academic exhibition in 1848, where it appeared along with the “Fresh Cavalier” and “Picky Bride”. (Currently, all three paintings are in the Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow).
In 1848 the Council of the Academy unanimously recognized the artist as an academician, and after the exhibition the name of Fedotov became known to the general public, there appeared in the magazines laudatory articles of critics. The popularity of Fedotov was promoted by the circumstance that almost simultaneously with the “Matchmaking Major” a poem became known, explaining the meaning of this picture, composed by the artist himself and spreading in manuscript copies. Fedotov, from a young age, liked to write poetry, fables, elegies, album plays, romances, which he himself translated into music, and, at the time of his officership, soldier’s songs.
Fedotov’s poetry is much lower than the creations of his pencil and brush, but it has the same merits. Fedotov did not attach much importance to his poems and did not publish, allowing to rewrite them only to acquaintances. The poem to “Matchmaking Major” was rightly considered by his acquaintances the most successful piece of Fedotov’s poetry.
Academic exhibition in 1848 brought Pavel Andreevich, in addition to honor and fame, a slight improvement in his financial situation: in addition to the pension of the state treasury, 300 rubles were vacated. A year from the amount allocated by His Majesty’s Cabinet to the promotion of worthy artists.
In February 1850 in Moscow the family of Pavel Andreevich fell into a miserable financial situation; The artist throws all the cases and goes to help his relatives. From his paintings from the St. Petersburg exhibition and from several drawings by sepia an exhibition was organized, which led the Moscow audience into even greater delight. Fedotov returned from Moscow contented, healthy, full of bright hopes and again began to work. Now he wanted to contribute to his work, directed before this to exposing the vulgar and dark sides of Russian life, a new element – the interpretation of the phenomena of the bright and the joyful.
An important place in the work of Pavel Andreevich was occupied by portraits, in which irony gave way to bright, contemplative lyricism. Among them is “Portrait of Nadezhda Pavlovna Zhdanovich, married Werner, behind the harpsichord” (1849, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg).
However, despite the fact that by the end of the 1840s the artist received a deserved recognition, even in this, the best period of Fedotov’s creative work, it was not all cloudless. Censorship prohibited the publication “In the evening instead of preference”, conceived by Fedotov and his closest friend Eustathius Bernard, who adjoined the Petrashevists and went through their process. Also, the “Illustrated Almanac” Nekrasov, for which Fedotov made illustrations, was banned. The excesses of censorship Fedotov described in his fables “The Diligent Saw”, “The Tarpeian Rock”.
In 1851, in order to earn money, the artist set to work on the composition “Return of the Institutes to the Parent’s House”, which he had not completed and replaced by another plot: “The Arrival of Nicholas I at the Patriotic Institute,” which also remained only half elaborated.
The principality of the artist along with the satirical thrust of his work aroused the increased attention of censorship, the patrons who had previously favored him turned away from Fedotov. In the picture “The Widow” (1851, 1852 – the second variant, the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) the image of an attractive young woman, apprehended by a great misfortune – the loss of her beloved husband – is full of regret for lost happiness. The unfinished paintings “Anchor, still an anchor” (1851, the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) and the “Players” (1852, Museum of Russian Art, Kiev, Ukraine) are full of feelings of fatal absurdity of being and thoughts about the meaninglessness of human existence, anticipating the absurdity in the art of symbolism .
Concerns and disappointment, together with a constant tension of the mind, hands and eyes, especially when working in the evening and at night, had a devastating effect on the health of Pavel Andreevich. The artist’s eyesight deteriorated, he began to suffer from blood flushes to the brain, frequent headaches, grew old beyond his years, and in his very nature there was an increasingly noticeable change: cheerfulness and sociability were replaced by meditation and taciturnity.
In the spring of 1852, Pavel Andreevich showed signs of acute mental disorder. His behavior was strange. Soon the academy was notified by the police that “with the unit there is a madman who says that he is an artist Fedotov.”
Friends and superiors of the Academy put Fedotov in one of the private St. Petersburg hospitals for the mentally ill, and the tsar granted 500 rubles for his maintenance in this institution. Despite this, the disease progressed, and in the autumn of 1852 the acquaintances got the transfer of Pavel Andreevich to the hospital of All the Afflicted on Peterhof highway. Here Fedotov died on November 14 of the same year, forgotten by all but a few close friends.
He was buried in the Smolensk Orthodox cemetery in the uniform of the Captain of the Life Guards of the Finnish Regiment. The censorship committee forbade the publication of news about the death of Pavel Andreevich in the press. During the life of the artist, not one of his literary works was published. His poem “Amendment of circumstances, or Marriage of the Major”, published in 1857 in Leipzig, was banned for distribution in Russia. In 1936 the ashes of the artist were reburied in the necropolis of the masters of the arts of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra with the installation of a new monument.
Pavel Andreevich Fedotov is the ancestor of critical realism in Russian painting. In his work two directions predominate. The first direction is dominated by drawings and outline sketches created under the strong influence of Hogarth. Even poorly mastering the picture, Fedotov is trying not so much to reproduce reality as much as posing the whole-human weaknesses and shortcomings for show, ridiculing the vulgar or dark sides of contemporary Russian morals.
The plot of these works is complicated and confusing. Their main idea is emphasized by the addition of side episodes to the main scene expressing it. The artist does not skimp on accessories that can enhance the disclosure of the plot and sometimes completely clutters up their composition. The movement of human figures, although characteristic, but angular and exaggerated. The same must be said about persons whose type and expression pass into a grimace. The predominant element of these works is a caricature.
As Fedotov improved, the character of his works changed, becoming less refined. At the same time, the typicality of the depicted figures, the meaningfulness of their movements and the expressiveness of their faces not only did not weaken, but also increased because the artist increasingly worked from nature, not imposing on her the forms and expressions imagining his fantasies, but looking for in the real world what Corresponded to these ideas.
Piling up the composition, explaining it through various trifles gradually gave way to simplicity and naturalness. The very idea that formed the basis of the composition became more and more serious and close to life. Seeking to go in this direction and overcoming the difficulties arising from the lack of possession of technology, Fedotov, thanks to his sharp mind, rare observation and hard work, achieved brilliant results. But the results would be even more striking if fate gave him better conditions and his life would not be interrupted so cruelly and prematurely.
Nevertheless, he did enough to make his name forever one of the most glorious names in the history of Russian art. He opened a new vein of nationality and satire that had not yet been touched in Russian painting, the first of all artists showed an example of its successful development and left it in the inheritance of talents that arose after him.