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Arkhip Kuindzhi: The Master of Glowing Landscapes

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Depicting warm and glowing landscapes by capturing the most expressive illuminative aspect of the natural condition, the Russian landscape painter of Greek descent, Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi, is celebrated as one of the most talented landscape painters of the 19th century.

Famous for his large, nearly empty landscapes, the artist was born on January 27, 1842, in Mariupol, Ukraine. Growing up in a poor shoemaker’s family, Kuindzhi lost his parents at the age of six and forced to make a living by herding geese. The only education he received was reading lessons taken from some barely literate Greek and about three years at the local public school.

At the age of 10, Kuindzhi gave up school and got a job at the construction site of a nearby church. Afterwards, he was hired by a merchant as a domestic servant. Between running errands, cleaning shoes and serving at the table, he found time to draw. His pictures impressed one of his employer’s friends, who advised him to become an apprentice to the famous seascape painter Ivan Aivazovsky.

In 1855, Kuindzhi moved to the town of Feodosia to study art under Aivazovsky. He lived for about four months at Aivazovsky’s house, but the maestro paid no attention to him and he was only given the task of mixing paints for his tutor. It was Aivazovsky’s student named Adolf Fessler who showed Kuindzhi some artistic skills. However, watching a professional artist at work affected him and helped him to choose his way in life.

From 1860 to 1865, Kuindzhi worked as a retoucher in the photography studio of Simeon Isakovich in Taganrog. Afterwards, he left for St. Petersburg to attend The Academy of Fine Arts. After falling for several attempts, he received the right to attend the Academy lectures as an irregular student through his picture “A Tatar Hut in Crimea”.

In 1872, the work named “Autumn Impassability of Roads” brought Kuindzhi an Academy title of a “class artist of the third grade” given to the Academy graduates. In 1874, his work “Snow” was exhibited at the London International Exhibition and was awarded the bronze medal. The same year, he began to participate in mobile exhibitions organized by The Wanderers (Peredvizhniki) rebel artist group. His first painting displayed at such an exhibition was “The Forgotten Village”.

In 1875, Kuindzhi married his childhood love, Vera Ketcherdzh, and in 1876 he exhibited his true masterpiece, “The Ukrainian Night”. The colors of the painting are the deep colors of the southern landscape. In 1879, he left The Wanderers to seek his own style and mood, and a year later impressed the public and critics with the famous “The Moon Night on the Dniepr River”.

In 1882, Kuindzhi made an exhibition of three of his paintings and after that, he neither participated in any exhibitions nor showed his works to anyone until the 1900s. In 1894, he headed the art school under the Academy of Arts. Among his apprentices was world famous painter Nicholas Roerich.

At the age of 68, Kuindzhi died on July 24, 1910, and is buried in the Tikhvinskoye Cemetery in St. Petersburg.


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