NIKITIN, Ivan Nikitich
(b. 1680s, Moscow, d. ca. 1742)


Russian painter. The son of a Moscow priest who was close to the imperial court, Nikitin received his first artistic lessons from a Dutch artist Schwonbek at the engraving shop of the Kremlin Armoury. He subsequently worked chiefly in St. Petersburg when in 1711 the Armory was moved there. In 1716-1720 he and his brother Roman Nikitin were sent to Italy by Peter the Great. The brothers learnt the art of painting at Florence and Venice. After returning to Russia Nikitin became the favourite court painter of Peter the Great. He worked in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

After Peter's death he and his brothers Roman and Rodion were arrested for the distribution of pamphlets against vice-Procurator of Synod Feofan Prokopovich. Ivan was tortured, for five years imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, then whipped and exiled to Tobolsk. In 1741 he received amnesty, travelled back from Tobolsk to St. Petersburg and died somewhere on the road.

His early portraits were of Peter the Great and members of Peter's family. His style was formed at the time of Peter the Great's reforms of the administrative and education system in Russia, and he ranks as a pioneer of a new style in Russian painting. In his early works, up to 1716, he adapted the medieval Russian style of portraiture to the forms of contemporary European examples. His later portraits are typical Baroque paintings. Besides portraits, he is also considered to be the first notable Russian battle painter (depictions of the Battle of Poltava and Battle of Kulikovo).

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