The famous artist of the second half of the 19th century, Genrikh Ippolitovich Semiradsky was born in the Kharkov province in 1843, in the family of a military doctor of the tsarist army. The family adheres to the Catholic faith, the Polish language and way of life.
Studying in the Kharkov gymnasium, the boy acquires the first skills in art from his mentor D.I. Besperchoy, a well-known master of genre painting of an academic direction. Subsequently, Heinrich Ippolitovich called him his teacher, because thanks to Besperchiy, the classical academic style became the main one in the work of Semiradsky.
Henry's father did not object to his son's interest in painting, but wished him a scientific career. At the insistence of his father, Henry in 1860 entered the local university at the faculty in the direction of natural sciences. He is fond of insects as a student, and until the last years of his life he has been collecting a rich collection of butterflies.
In 1864, having graduated from a university in Kharkov with a scientific degree, Henry, not listening to his father, left for St. Petersburg, where he entered the Academy of Arts as a volunteer. He immediately attracts attention with a work written in 1865 on the biblical theme of the tenth execution for the Egyptians - the beating of all the first-born in Egypt. The first silver medal of the Academy and the transfer from a free listener to students were received for it.
He has famous teachers - professor of battle painting Bogdan Villevalde and religious painter Karl Wenig.
Due to his character or the presence of extraordinary intelligence, or for some other reason, Henry Semiradsky has no friends at all. He is interested in music, theater, draws a lot and successfully, receives prizes and gratitude from the Academy. Semiradsky writes paintings and sketches on biblical and antique subjects, on historical themes.
He receives a gold award and the title of artist, but Henry is always in doubt, many of his works are not liked by teachers, he is often criticized either for excessive naturalism or for negligence in minor details.
In 1870, Semiradsky nevertheless made acquaintances and friends. He joins the circle of St. Petersburg intelligentsia, meets with M. M. Antokolsky, N. G. Rubintshtein, I. E. Repin and other writers, musicians, artists.
In the autumn of the same year he was awarded a gold medal and a pensioner trip abroad at the expense of the Academy. While in Munich, Semiradsky presents a sketch of his first large canvas dedicated to the life of Ancient Rome. Finished work is a huge success. At an exhibition in St. Petersburg, it is acquired by the future Emperor Alexander the Third.
Now the artist has money and he aspires to Italy, chooses Rome, where he remains for many years, starting in May 1872. In 1873 he marries. In Italy, he writes the paintings “Sinner”, “Roman Landscape”, “Following the Example of the Gods” and many, many others.
He develops his own style, beautiful landscapes, interesting scenes, contemporaries love his paintings very much, despite the fact that critics still consider him a destroyer of the old academic style.
The main works in the work of Semiradsky are: “The Lights of Christianity”, “Phryne at the festival of Poseidon”, painting of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
In his declining years, he continues to work actively, creating panels for the Philharmonic, a theater curtain for the Krakow Opera. In 1901, he became seriously ill, and his family decided to return to Poland, to the Stshalkovo estate. In 1902, Henry Ippolitovich died and was buried in Krakow.
During the Art Nouveau and avant-garde periods, the artist's work was undeservedly forgotten. But at present, interest in the work of Semiradsky is revived, they are appreciated by viewers and art connoisseurs.