Valentin Serov

by Armand Cabrera

Valentin Serov was born on January 7, 1865 In Saint Petersburg. His father Alexander Serov was a composer and music critic and his mother Valentina was a pianist. Serov’s father died when he was 6. His family moved to Munich and then Paris and at 9 Serov took lessons from Repin at his Paris studio learning to draw from casts and paint from life.

His family returned to Russia a year later first to Kiev then to Moscow. In Moscow Serov resumed studies with Repin for two more years. In 1880 Repin sent Serov to the Academy in Saint Petersburg for formal training under Pavel Christiakov. Serov studied at the Academy for five years.

In 1889 Serov married Olga Trubnikova.
He won a medal for his portrait of Angelo Masini in 1890 at the Moscow Society of Art Lovers. In 1897 he began teaching at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1900 Serov received the Grand Medal of Honor at the Paris World Exhibition for his portrait of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich.


Serov is considered the first Russian Portraitist to break from academic tradition and adopt a modern style. He worked as an impressionist using his academic training as an anchor for his expressive handling. His paintings captured the character of the sitter with bravura brushwork and strong sensitivity to color and shape over detail. He quickly became a much sought after portraitist.


Serov’s portraits have an immediacy and intimacy to them they seem to be snapshots of a moment in time with the sitter. This seemingly casual approach and required much effort on the artists part and his paintings often took weeks and sometimes months to complete.

Valentin Serov died in Moscow on November 22, 1911 at the age of 46.


Valentin Serov
Dimitri Sarabyanov and GrigoryArbuzov
1982 Aurora Publishing

The Itinerants The masters of Russian Realism
Elena Nesterova
1996 Aurora Publishing



Any human face is so complex and so unique that you can always find in it traits worthy of portrayal be they good or bad. For my part, each time I appraise a person’s face I am inspired, you might even say carried away, not by his or her outer aspect which is trivial, but by the characterization it can be given on canvas.~ Valentin Serov

Ilya Semionovich Ostroukhov

Armand Cabrera

Ilya Semionovich Ostroukhov was born in 1858 in Moscow to a well to do merchant family. Ostroukhov was a primarily self-taught artist with no systematic formal art training. In 1880 at the age of 22 he took some private lessons from Alexander Kiseliov and then attended Ilya Repins Sunday evening drawing sessions. In 1886 he was an unregistered student at the Moscow College of Painting Sculpture and Architecture.

He participated in travelling exhibitions and joined the Society for Circulating Art Exhibitions in 1891.  The Society formed in 1870 was major democratic association of realist artists.

 Its members became known as the Itinerants and the Society was made up of the majority of the most talented and progressive artists of the day in Russia. The members sought to popularize realist art and championed their movement as a force for cultural progress and a better life for all Russians.

Ostroukhov focused his work on realistic but poetic landscape images of Central Russia. His most famous works were Golden Autumn 1886, Early Spring 1887 and The North Wind 1890 (the last three images in this article). 

The north wind brought him critical acclaim and prominence in the art world.  He became a member of the board of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow from 1898 to 1913. He was the gallery administrator from1905. His affluence allowed him to collect art and his collection of Russian Masterworks was nationalized in 1917 after the October Revolution. Ostroukhov stayed on as the museum’s curator until his death in 1929 at the age of 71 years old.


The Itinerants and the Society for Circulating Exhibitions
A Lebedev
Aurora Publishers 1974

The Itinerants The Masters of Russian Realism
Elena Nesterova
Parkstone Aurora Publishers 1996