Portrait of Illarion Pryanishnikov

Michael Vasilyevic NESTEROV (1862 – 1942)

Portrait of a Illarion Pryanishnikov

Signed (Nesterov) ‘lower right’
oil on board
30,8 x 42 cm.

€ 80,000


Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov was a Russian and Soviet painter; associated with the Peredvizhniki and Mir Iskusstva.  He was one of the first exponents of Symbolist art in Russia.

He was born to a strongly patriarchal merchant family. His father was a draper and haberdasher, but always had a strong interest in history and literature. As a result, he was sympathetic to his son’s desire to be an artist, but insisted that he acquire practical skills first and, in 1874, he was sent to Moscow where he enrolled at the Voskresensky Realschule. In 1877, his counselors suggested that he transfer to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he studied with Pavel Sorokin, Illarion Pryanishnikov and Vasily Perov. In 1879, he began to participate in the school’s exhibitions. Two years later, he entered the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, where he worked with Pavel Chistyakov.

His first major success came with his painting, “The Hermit” which was shown at the seventeenth exhibition of the Peredvizhniki in 1889. It was purchased by Pavel Tretyakov and the money enabled Nesterov to take an extended trip to Austria, Germany, France and Italy. Upon returning, his painting, “The Vision to the Youth Bartholomew”, the first in a series of works on the life of Saint Sergius, was shown at the eighteenth Peredvizhniki exhibition and also purchased by Tretyakov. This series would eventually include fifteen large canvases and occupy him for fifty years.

In 1941, he was awarded the Stalin Prize for his portrait of Pavlov (created in 1935). It was one of the first given to an artist. Shortly after, he received the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. As the war progressed, his health and financial situation deteriorated rapidly. He had a stroke while working on his painting “Autumn in the Village” and died at Botkin Hospital. His unfinished memoirs, which he had begun in 1926, were published later that year under the title “Bygone Days”. In 1962, he was honored with a postage stamp. In 1996, his likeness appeared on the 50 Ural franc banknote and, in 2015, a monument to him was unveiled at the Bashkir State Art Museum in Ufa.

His works can be found in major museums such as State Tretyakov Gallery, Pushkin Museum and Hermitage.