Alexey Bogolyubov was a nobleman, grandson of the writer Alexander Radishchev and a naval officer who became an artist and is remembered not only for his marine paintings, but also for the fact that he managed to open the first public museum outside the capital and to give it the name of his dishonor grandfather.
“View of Revel from the Sea”, 1852
After graduating from the Naval Cadet Corps, Alexey Bogolyubov (1824-1896) joined the Navy. However, his service and noble parties could not prevent him from devoting enough time to his main passion – painting, which also helped him get by. The young amateur drew sketches of ship’s equipment, caricatures and even received his first state order.
In a series of trips, the trip to Madeira in 1848 turned out to be fateful – when he met the venerable painter Karl Bryullov on the island, Bogolyubov received positive feedback from him on his works. The main thing, however, was that this time Bogolyubov was under the guidance of Maximilian, Duke of Leuchtenberg, the president of the Imperial Academy of Arts, who advised him to seriously take up painting.
Some time later he joined the Academy as an external student while still in service to have some money to live on. In 1853 the painter received a large gold medal for three views of Revel and for “View of St. Petersburg from the Sea.”
2. ‘Venice at night’, 1881
Tula Museum of Fine Arts
The Academy Award entitled him to a retirement trip abroad. By that time he had already left his service in the navy and he traveled to Venice in October 1854.
‘The warm Venetian evening descended, the full moon appeared as if on purpose, the night fell like a curtain, and here I liked Venice even more. Black gondolas silvered the surface of the Grand Canal and the lagoons. Everything lay touched with a thin bluish veil”, he described his impressions in his “Notes on a Marine Artist”; in them he also admitted that he would paint this city for the rest of his life. He painted and drew no less than a hundred of its views.
3. ‘A fair in Amsterdam’, circa 1859
Bogolyubov spent six years abroad, studying the masterpieces of world art, improving painting by learning from his foreign colleagues. In Paris he graduated from the Couture School and learned from the famous marine painter Eugène Isabey, the court painter to the King of France, Louis-Philippe I; he became acquainted with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and later also with Corot, Daubigny and Rousseau.
In Düsseldorf, he learned the secrets of realistic painting in the workshop of the landscape painter Andreas Achenbach; under his supervision, he created several large paintings, including ‘A Fair in Amsterdam’, a sweeping work that symbolically summarized his retirement journey.
Bogolyubov returned to Russia in late 1860 with a number of paintings and studies that were exhibited at the Academy with great success, cementing his status as a major artist. Emperor Alexander II paid well for “A Fair in Amsterdam” and for all paintings about the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and gave the artist a new assignment – to paint the history of the naval battles of Peter the Great.
4. ‘The first battle of the Russian fleet under the command of NA Senyavin near Ösel against the Swedish fleet’, 1866
Radishchev Art Museum in Saratov
During his time he acquired fame as a naval painter, the master of battle scenes, and knew no equal thanks to his experience as a naval officer. He painted the scenes of naval battles, starting from the time of Peter the Great and ending with the events of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
He worked on his Peter the Great series in the 1860s and 1870s, constantly moving between countries. This painting shows the scene of the Russian fleet’s first victory at sea at the very moment when the Russian flagship ‘Portsmouth’ fires a salvo at a Swedish ship. This sketch, among other works, he gave to the Radishchev Museum in Saratov, which he himself founded. The museum was opened in 1885 and became the first public museum in Russia outside the capital.
The foundation of this museum was for the painter a life’s work; he put a lot of effort into giving this museum the name of his grandfather – the disgraced writer Alexander Radishchev, the author of “The Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow.” In many ways his friendship with Emperor Alexander III contributed to this; but people in the emperor’s inner circles gossiped for a long time about the reasons for naming a museum after a revolutionary. Bogolyubov bequeathed his possessions and 200 thousand rubles to the museum.
5. ‘Religious Procession in Yaroslavl’, 1863
Radishchev Art Museum in Saratov
In 1861, the painter, together with his brother Nikolai, a sailor and writer, set out on a journey along the Volga River to create the region’s travel guide. For Bogolyubov, who had lived abroad for a long time, this was an acquaintance with his own country, which, according to the painter himself, he did not really understand. To his surprise, there were more than 20 religious processions in Yaroslavl from the celebration of Jesus’ baptism until late autumn.
This subject captured him and became one of the central themes of his artistic work. A couple of years later, the artist spent five days in Yaroslavl as part of the entourage of Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, who bought his works.
After Tsesarevich’s untimely death, these paintings ended up in the collection of the future Emperor Alexander III, who, as is known, inherited not only the paintings from his older brother, but also his fiance – Princess Dagmar of Denmark, future Empress Maria Feodorovna.
6. ‘Fishing vessel entering the port of Saint-Valery in Caux (France) during a storm’, circa 1859
Bogolyubov was not only one of Alexander III’s favorite painters, but also his friend, as well as Maria Feodorovna’s painting teacher. He also excelled in forming the emperor’s collection, which gathered about 800 objects placed in various palaces.
In 1870, as a sign of appreciation, Alexander III placed some thirty paintings by Bogolyubov in the dining room of the Alexander Palace and called this room the ‘Bogolyubov Hall’. This painting was in Alexander III’s office in the Anichkov Palace, his residence.
7. ‘Toulon’, 1893
Radishchev Art Museum in Saratov
After 1873, Bogolyubov lived and worked permanently abroad due to his heart disease, but only rarely returned to his homeland. It did not prevent him from being informed about all business, from participating in the Peredvizhniki exhibitions; with his administrative resources he also helped other artists.
For example, in 1885 he successfully appealed to remove the ban from Ilya Repin’s painting “Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan on November 16, 1581”, which Alexander III did not like. He also arranged lucrative commissions for other artists, including Polenov, Savitsky, Kramskoy. Artists from Russia in Paris flowed between Bogolyubov’s workshop at Rue de Rome, 95, which was called “Russian Paris”, and the house of the singer Pauline Viardot, where yet another of her patrons, the writer Ivan Turgenev, organized events to support Russian youth.
The apotheosis of “Tuesdays” in Bogolyubov and “Thursdays” in Turgenev was the founding of the “Community for Mutual Assistance of Russian Painters” in Paris. At the same time, the organization of an alliance between the Russian Empire and the French Third Republic was underway. After the arrival of a French squadron at Kronstadt, a Russian squadron of Admiral Avellan departed for Toulon in 1893, which became the key event in bringing the countries together and the signing of the Franco-Russian alliance. By that time, Bogolyubov had become the main figure in cultural relations between France and Russia, so he was chosen by the Tsar as the official artist to capture the ceremonies in Toulon. Not long before his death, he became a recipient of the National Order of the Legion of Honor.
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