Konstantin Yegorovich Makovskiy (1839-1915) is an artist of unusual and contradictive destiny. Rare talent and ambition - and big money; participation in the famous 'rebel of the fourteen' - and ranks of a professor and academician at the Art Academy. Makovskiy created countless ordered likenesses of Russian aristocrats and, at the same time, the whole gallery of portraits of Russian artists, distinguished men of culture, and great historical paintings.
The artist's heritage has not still been studied and valued properly yet. Perhaps, remarks of some reviewers about his eagerness to embellish reality are true. One can, however, dispute it. But one cannot dispute the master's bright individual style, special expressiveness, and enormous talent.
This album contains the most complete collection of colour images (about three hundred and fifty) of works, made by Konstantin Yegorovich Makovskiy.
Konstantin was born in Moscow in the family of known art lovers; in his early childhood, he took over their gifts and fondness of painting. When an old man, Konstantin Makovskiy wrote, 'for what I am now I am obliged neither to the Academy nor to professionals but only to my father'. Besides his father Yegor Ivanovich, famous artist V.A. Tropinin, a great friend of the family, took part in Konstantin's educaton as a painter. When Konstantin was 12, his parents sent him to the Moscow College of Art, Sculpture, and Architecture. He studied easily and successfully on the basis of his artistic experience.
Soon, artistic circles in Moscow began to mention Makovskiy's name as his professionalism and expert use of brush made him quite different from other young painters. In 1858, according to his father's desire, Konstantin went to St. Petersburg and entered the local Art Academy. Makovskiy's good background enabled him to win several awards as early as in his first year at the Academy. His picture 'Emissars of False Dmitry Assassinate Boris Godunov's Son' was prized with a golden medal the next year.
K. Makovskiy was unable to live without painting, devoting all his free time to it. He paid a special attention to portraiture, making likenesses of his relatives and friends, being especially successful with those of women and children. The fame of a gifred portrait painter came to him after the likeness of count Muraviov-Amurskiy.
In his long life, K. Makovskiy created a whole gallery of portraits of persons, famous in art and science. At the same time, he tried to depict scenes from the lives of simple men.
The Art Academy could hardly approve its students' interest in 'ordinary life'. Therefore its board decided to appoint a Scandinavian mythology topic for the graduate exam instead of a free choice. The decision infuriated young artists and caused the notorious 'Rebel of the Fourteen'. As a result, fourteen graduate students, including Makovskiy, left the Academy. So in 1863, Konstantin Yegorovich continued his career in the St. Petersburg studio of artists, headed by I.N. Kramskoy. But the lack of true ideology and ability to work alone for himself made Makovskiy leave the studio.
In 1860-s - 1870-s the artist traveled around Russia a lot and created a number of pictures devoted to people's everyday life. All his works were present at regular exhibitions of the Art Academy, attracting lots of visitors. In 1867, the Academy made Makovskiy an academician for his pictures 'Poor Children' and 'Herring Wife' while two years later he was granted the rank of a professor.
In 1876, Konstantin went to Egypt in search of new impressions. But it was not ancient monuments but everyday life of the people, their culture and characters that attracted the artist. That is why he chose the busy capital of the country, Cairo. There Makovskiy worked a lot, creating a wonderful series of pictures and studies equal to those by great V. Polenov and V. Vereschaghin. Repin, a great master of painting, praised the artist, 'I always liked the man... as a great professional in his labour, already valued enough by his country'. Makovskiy's success grew from day to day, his pictures became extremely popular and were bought very quickly both in Russia and abroad. But, as the number of orders grew, the artist decreased his level, exchanging art for richness. Proud of his success, Makovskiy wanted to be completely independent. In 1883, he left 'The Moving Artists' group; at the same time, he was also stand-offish with the Academy.
In the spring of 1886, following the quarter-centenary of his career, Konstantin Yegorovich organized a personal exhibition of his works, to be met coldly by his colleagues. Art reviewer V. Chuyko wrote, 'Extraordinary powerful and brilliant colours are acknowledged features of Makovskiy's works but... they are too colourful... Makovskiy has no sense of proportion'. Sometimes, putting off orders, Konstantin Makovsiy was still able to create worthy works. In the period of 1880-s - 1890-s the artist fruitfully worked on historical pieces, looking for the atmosphere of Boyar Russia of the 17th century, famous for grand feasts, bright marriages, and festivals.
In 1885, his picture 'Boyar Marriage Feast of the 17th Century' won a honourable award at the international exhibition in Antwerp while his work 'The Death of Ivan the Terrible' received a golden medal at the exhibition in Paris in 1889. After the great picture 'Kuzma Minin on the Square in Nizhny Novgorod Appeals to the Citizens to Contribute', which occupied 42 square meters, Konstantin Yegorovich gave up historical painting.
In 1910, Konstantin Makovskiy celebrated semicentenary of his career. He was well aware of fading of his fame, saying 'I was too fond of life, and it prevented me from devoting myself to art completely'.
The artist died suddenly in a road accident in the autumn of 1915. He left a great heritage: portraits of beautiful women, prominent scientists, actors, historians, writers, and generals of Russia, historical pictures and scenes from everyday life. All his works in colours represent the time of the artist's life.
Makovskiy's work has not been studied or valued properly yet. Some researchers blame him of embellishing life and of sameness. But at the same time one can hardly disagree with the fact that the artist's works are distinguished by his special style and expression. They confirm the sure talent of Konstantin Makovskiy.