With the name of Sergei Ivanovich Svetoslavsky (1857-1931), the heyday of national landscape painting of the second half of the 19th century is associated. Time changed the features of the master’s pictorial techniques, but did not affect the main thing – S. Svetoslavsky until the end remained true to his own, once chosen aesthetic ideals, affirming the beauty of the ordinary, everyday; true to his creative method, formed in his youth, – realism.
S. Svetoslavsky was born in Kiev and came from a noble family, was the son of a court counselor. Having left his hometown early, he left for Russia. His childhood passed in Pskov, Petersburg, Tver province and Moscow. There, the young man entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he studied under A.K. Savrasov, V.G. Perova, E.S. Sorokina, I.M. Pryanishnikova, V.D. Polenova (1875-1883 gg.). Then he continued his education at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1882), and in the same year he was awarded small silver and small encouraging medals for landscape studies. In 1883 he returned to school and received the title of teacher of painting, without completing the course.
S. Svetoslavsky lived for several years in Moscow (1870-1883, 1890-1894), brought new paintings to traveling exhibitions, talked with his comrades, artists of the Wanderers, cultural figures – P. Tretyakov, I. Levitan, K Korovin , V. Polenov, I. Shishkin, A. Vasnetsov, O. Kiselev, K. Sovitsky. And, of course, the artist inspired this city. Of his most famous paintings of this period are “Moscow. Moskvoretsky Bridge”, “Evening Twilight”, “View of Kitai Gorod” and “View from the Kremlin to Zamoskvorechye”. These paintings were painted during the years of S. Svetoslavsky’s training at the school. In them, the artist conveys the originality of the majestic appearance of the city with its central architectural ensembles. The painter’s main aspiration was the desire to recreate the everyday image of modern Moscow with its street hustle, with the fleeting movement of pedestrians, cabmen and the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, frozen in their silent majesty. Many paintings by the artist of the Moscow period were highly appreciated by contemporaries, in particular V. Stasov commended them, and the famous philanthropist P. Tretyakov bought his work “From the Window of the Moscow School of Painting” and others for his gallery.
At the Moscow School of Sculpture and Architecture, one of his teachers was the great Russian artist A. Savrasov. He was a wonderful, thoughtful, sincere teacher. It is no accident that along with S. Svetoslavsky, such artists as the Korovin brothers, Isaac Levitan, Alexei Stepanov and others grew up under his leadership. The secret of the teacher’s influence on young people was not so much the teaching methodology as the ability to inspire students who, embraced by enthusiastic worship of nature, united in a tight circle, worked tirelessly – both in the workshop, at home, and in nature. With the first warm, sunny, spring days, the whole workshop was in a hurry from the city and, among the melting snow, admired the beauty of an awakening and renewed life. Such a love of beauty of native nature, grafted to its picturesque chanting, instilled from youth, allowed the artist to become one of the leading landscape painters of his time.
Over his entire career, S. Svyatoslavsky traveled a lot in Ukraine: Kiev, Chernihiv, Poltava, Yekaterinoslav, Kharkov, Kherson, Tauride provinces, the Black Sea coast. From there he brought a huge number of studies and completed paintings.
In the 1880-1890s, he traveled to the south of Russia, the Caucasus, and Crimea.
In 1884, S. Svetoslavsky moved to Kiev. Here, on Kurenevka, the picturesque outskirts of Kiev, his parents had a small estate. Until 1900, not one of the shows of the Wanderers could do without the artist’s work. Capital newspapers enthusiastically wrote about his paintings more than once, emphasizing not only their skill and beauty, but also the fact that they differ in a bold and unusual decision. He loved his Ukraine, its nature, with which he felt his complete unity. He felt native expanses, saw beauty in its unhurried sunrises and sunsets, in the blooming of its gardens, during quiet rivers, he loved to write the Dnieper, Dnieper shallows, spills, floods, he knew how to convey the originality of its free steppe. At any time of the year, the artist could climb into some not very convenient, unadapted place, from where a wonderful view could be opened, settle down there under his obligatory umbrella and write for hours. Such a painting is the painting “Landscape with a Mill”. The finest development of shades of colors gives the picture a special sophistication, despite the seemingly simplicity of the plot.
In 1900, he was awarded the bronze medal of the World Exhibition in Paris for the painting “Courtyard”. In the late 1890s, in 1900 and in 1910-1911. made travels to Central Asia, after which he created a large series of paintings on the nature, life and life of the peoples of the East. In 1906, the artist published satirical drawings in the famous Kiev journal “Hornet.” In 1905-1907 S. Svetoslavsky organized an art workshop