Sphinx Fine Art
Surikov’s artistic talent was first spotted by his schoolteacher, N. V. Grebnev, who began to tutor him individually in order to nurture his gift. After finishing school in 1868, Surikov left on a year-long journey on horseback to St. Petersburg, where he eventually joined the Academy of Art in 1869. 1874 marked the date of Surikov’s first historical work The Knyaz’s (Grand Duke’s) Court of Law, and soon afterwards, he received a commission for four large paintings for the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Surikov moved to the city in order to complete the works, and settled there permanently. Moscow was to provide considerable inspiration for the artist; Surikov was taken aback by its great history, the views of the Red Square, and the monumental architecture of monasteries and cathedrals, leading him to comment, ‘when I moved to Moscow, this centre of the nation, I immediately found my way in art.’ Shortly afterwards, Surikov began his monumental work Morning of Strelets’ Execution, which he finished in 1881. The painting defined the main direction his oeuvre was to follow - the depiction of Russians at a turning point in their history. His next large-scale painting, Menshikov in Berezovo, dealt with the drama of Menshikov’s exile, and connected with the viewer on a highly personal level. Both of these large-scale canvases were subsequently purchased by the Russian collector Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898), in whose gallery they still remain today. The sale of the two paintings allowed Surikov to travel abroad, where he visited Germany, Italy, France and Austria, studying and admiring their art and different schools and styles of painting.