(b. ca. 1735, near Moscow, d. 1808, Moscow)


Russian painter. He was one of the foremost Russian portrait painters of the later 18th century. Over 150 paintings by him are known, but only a few are signed; a further 100 or so are attributed to him.

There is very little information about his life. He was born, probably a serf, on the estate of Prince Pyotr Repnin in the Moscow district, and, as a young man, he went to Moscow, where he came to the attention of Ivan Shuvalov, the curator of the university. In the mid-1750s he moved to St Petersburg, where it is possible that he was taught either by Pietro Antonio Rotari in the Shuvalov household or by Ivan Argunov.

In 1760, at Shuvalov's instigation, Rokotov was admitted to the recently founded Academy of Arts, where he both studied and taught. In 1762 he was appointed an associate and in 1765 an Academician. During his first years in St Petersburg he perfected his individual style, achieved a mastery of colour and became established as a portrait painter. He had his own studio with numerous pupils and painted many works for the court. His touching portrait of the Grand Duke Paul Petrovich as a Boy (1761; Russian Museum, St Petersburg) is one of the most charming of Russian 18th-century portraits. The compositional structure and the softness and delicacy of technique are reminiscent of the Rococo style in portraiture and show clearly the influence of Rotari.

He returned to Moscow in 1765, where he had a lot of commission and lived for the rest of his life. Among his best-known portraits is the Portrait of Alexandra Struyskaya (1772), sometimes called the Russian Mona Lisa.

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