Fedot Vasilyevich Sychkov (1870-1958) is often called the “chronicler of village painting” or the “poet of the Mordovian peasantry.” His paintings are filled with inimitable sincerity and sincerity.
From childhood, life did not spoil F. Sychkov in abundance. A boy born in the provinces of Mordovia lost his father at the age of 12. Having a talent for drawing, he chased the thresholds of icon-painting artels for a long time to find at least some means of subsistence. Only at the insistence of his grandmother in 1877 F. Sychkov was sent to Kochelaevskaya elementary school, where he met his first drawing teacher P. Dumayev. He, in turn, was delighted with the talent of the boy, tried in every possible way to help him with further education. In those years, he worked a lot in apprenticeships, painted church murals, later icons. A few years later they began to order picturesque portraits from photographs, but pennies paid for this to an unknown young artist. Only after a major “patronage” order of General I. Arapov, the richest local landowner, in 1892 F. Sychkov was able to enter a drawing school in St. Petersburg, where he studied under K. Lebedev, I. Tvorozhnikov, Y. Tsionglinsky. For three years, the future artist took a six-year course at the St. Petersburg Drawing School. In 1895, F. Sychkov entered the Higher Art School at the Academy of Arts, where he studied in the workshop of battle painting with N.D. Kuznetsova and P.O. Kovalevsky. In private, the artist attended the lessons of I.E. Repin, whom he considered his main teacher, whose advice he kept in his memory all his life. In 1900, the Academy of Arts awarded F. Sychkov the title of artist of painting, but without a diploma. The Academy Council didn’t want the person from the poor classes to be called an “artist”. Despite this, the artist was repeatedly awarded at various exhibitions not only in Russia but also in other countries. Including F. Sychkov received a silver medal at an exhibition in San Luis (USA), an incentive award at the International Exhibition in Rome, six times in a row – prizes at academic exhibitions in St. Petersburg. The artist visited Italy, France and Germany. Upon returning from abroad, he settled in his native village. The vast geography of exhibitions, the enormous popularity of F. Sychkov among both Russian and foreign art lovers have led to the fact that the whereabouts of many of the artist’s pre-revolutionary paintings are now unknown. His works were successfully sold in the Paris Salon, and this applies both to the pre-revolutionary period and to the 20 years …
F. Sychkov, in his own way, improved the genre of salon portrait, brought into it the purely national flavor of his homeland. His female images are unique, poetic and peculiar. Such are the girls depicted in the portraits. Often recognizable for their cheerfulness, female portraits of peasants F. Sychkov sometimes cause an undisguised surge of positive emotions. The heroines of his portraits are presented in elegant costumes, depicted either smiling or dreamy, and sometimes even flirting. They never complain about the hard peasant life. F. Sychkov studied women’s laughter from picture to picture, he tried to capture the elusive. The study of laughter and joy in the artist was not a simultaneous hobby. On the contrary, it was his credo – to portray human joy. The artist strove to see in them only the good and deeply believed that it was precisely by the optimism of the Russian people that they could judge their faith in a happy future. For optimism and faith in the Russian people F. Sychkov applauded not only grateful Russia, but also spoiled France. Perhaps, like no other, the Russian artist F. Sychkov managed to adapt his art to the tastes of foreign audiences. His cheerful peasant girls became a kind of training tool for foreigners in the knowledge of Russia.
No matter how popular the female portraits of the artist at foreign exhibitions, he did not leave his constant desire to be a “chronicler” of peasant life or peasant holidays. However, the master did not try to describe the rituals directly; he chose the most poetic episodes of folk festivals, such as collecting herbs on the Trinity or on Ivan Kupala. Before the October Revolution, many Russian artists spoke on the theme of folk types; F. Sychkov managed in his own way to enrich the peasant genre with new content. It seems that it was this new content, together with the artist’s deep faith in the people, that allowed him not to emigrate during the difficult years of the formation of the socialist power. For many years, the artist did not take advantage of the location of Soviet power. In addition to the salon style of performance, many were not satisfied with the image of the “bourgeois” famous artist in Europe. His truly folk painting did not fit into the monumental and revolutionary art, which was recognized as an ideal in the 20s. Thanks to his friend, the artist K. Veshchilov F. Sychkov survived the difficult years of complete poverty. K. Veshchilov in exchange for paintings helped the artist with food and money. Sometimes F. Sychkov had to draw up a revolution