BOROVIKOVSKY, Vladimir Lukich
(b. 1757, Mirgorod, d. 1825, St. Petersburg)
Vladimir Borovikovsky (Volodymyr Borovyk), Russian painter of Ukrainian birth. Along with Fyodor Rokotov and Dmitry Levitsky, Borovikovsky is one of the three great Russian portrait painters of the second half of the 18th century. He was trained by his father, Luka Borovyk, a Ukrainian Cossack and his brothers, who were icon painters. His early works were also icons which are archaic in style and resemble portraits produced by Ukrainian folk artists.
Borovikovsky may have lived the remainder his life as an amateur painter in a provincial town if not for an unexpected event. His friend Vasyl Kapnist was preparing an accommodation for Empress Catherine II in Kremenchuk during her travel to newly conquered Crimea. Kapnist asked Borovikovsky to paint two allegoric paintings (Peter I of Russia and Catherine II as peasants sowing seeds and Catherine II as a Minerva) for her rooms. The paintings so pleased the Empress that she requested that the painter move to Saint Petersburg.
After September 1788 Borovikovsky lived in Saint Petersburg where he changed his surname from the Cossack "Borovyk" to the more aristocratic-sounding Borovikovsky. For his first ten years in Saint Petersburg, he lived in the house of the poet, architect, musician and art theorist, Prince Nikolai Lvov, whose ideas strongly influenced Borovikovsky's art. At 30-years-old, he was too old to attend Imperial Academy of Arts, so he took private lessons from Dmitry Levitzky and later from Austrian painter Johann Baptist Lampi.
He soon became established, gaining a reputation as a brilliant colourist, and he received many commissions. Throughout his career, however, he continued to paint icons from time to time. In 1795 he became a member of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts; he was also closely connected with many of the chief exponents of Russian culture in the city. The number of his surviving works is large (at least 400 portraits). He had his own workshop, and he would often rely on assistants to paint the less important parts of a portrait. His sitters included members of the imperial family, courtiers, generals, many aristocrats and figures from the Russian artistic and literary worlds. Most of his portraits are intimate in style.