POLENOV, Vasily Dmitrievich
(b. 1844, St. Petersburg, d. 1927, Polenovo)
Russian painter. He began a systematic study of drawing in 1856, first with the landscape painter Pavel Cherkasov (1834-1900), then from 1859 to 1861 with Pavel Chistyakov (1832-1919). He also took lessons with Chistyakov, whom he considered his most important teacher, in 1871 and early 1872, after finishing his academic course. From 1863 to 1871 Polenov studied at the St Petersburg Academy of Art, where he met members of the progressive wing of the Russian artistic intelligentsia, and occasionally in the faculty of law at St Petersburg University.
The classical education he received at home, his academic training and lessons with Chistyakov led Polenov towards an 'exalted' history painting, although he personally inclined towards landscape. This dualism remained in Polenov's work for the duration, and not until the late 1880s and early 1890s did he achieve a stable relationship between the two forms.
The whole of his student career and the initial postgraduate, scholarship period was largely taken up with historical works: from academic compositions, for example the Resurrection of Jairus's Daughter (1871; Pskov, Museum of History), for which he received the Grand Gold Medal and a travel bursary (in Germany and Italy, 1872-73, and France, 1873-76), to numerous pictures and sketches on subjects from antiquity and medieval history, executed in France or shortly after his departure from there, under the perceptible influence of Paul Delaroche (e.g. The Master's Right, 1874; Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery). At the same time he produced his first independent works, in the 1860s and early 1870s: landscapes in the surroundings of the Imochentsy estate in Karelia (e.g. Mountains, 1870; Moscow Tretyakov Gallery), and landscape studies and pictures executed from nature in Normandy in 1874 (e.g. Fishing Boat, Etretat; Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery).
In 1876 he became an Academician. In 1882-95 he was professor of landscape painting at the School of Art in Moscow. He became interested in depictions of Christ and philosophical and religious questions. In 1905 he left the teaching staff of the Academy in protest against the massacre in St. Petersburg. In 1910-18 he managed the first folk-theatre in Moscow, and became active in the development of factory and village theatre.