A painter of genre and historical subjects, Riabushkin was born in Borisoglebskoy on 17th October 1861. He was the son of an icon painter and assisted his father and brother, also icon painters, from an early age. He was however orphaned aged 14. Riabushkin’s talent was seen by a student of the Moscow School of Painting, A. Kh. Preobrazhensky, who visited his village and who assisted Riabushkin in enrolling at the Moscow School of Painting, where he studied 1875-82. In Moscow he studied under Vasily Perov and Illarian Pryanishnikov, painting village scenes with which he would have been so familiar.
In 1882, following the death of Perov, Riabushkin moved to St. Petersburg enrolling at the Imperial Academy. In St. Petersburg Riabushkin spent much of his time sketching in the streets, and failed to receive his diploma. However, his work impressed the President of the Academy who awarded Riabushkin a travelling bursary which he used to travel with in Russia, concentrating his interests on Russian village life the buildings crafts and society.
Riabushkin’s paintings of everyday life set in the 17th century did not find favour with all his contemporaries, but are now highly prized by collectors for their accuracy and faithful representational qualities.
Riabushkin also received commissions to paint frescoes for Sofia Cathedral in Novgorod and for the Church of the Saviour in St. Petersburg.
Riabushkin was a distinctively Russian artist steeped in the history of his country. He died in Didvino, where he lived and worked, on 27th April 1904.