The future talented master of landscape, genre and historical painting was born in 1844 in a large and enlightened noble family. It was Vasily’s environment that in his childhood had a great influence on him, making him susceptible to various manifestations of life and giving him the opportunity to reflect his feelings on the canvas.
The amazing talent of the artist was formed under the influence of a grandmother who raised children, instilling in them a love of art and Russian nature. She encouraged the artistic abilities of her grandchildren and their love of drawing. As a child, Basil was greatly influenced by the northern Olonets region with a rich nature, almost unaffected by human influence.
The future artist after high school went to study at the Physics and Mathematics University of St. Petersburg, but also did not forget his love of painting. After classes, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, attending a wide variety of classes and classes in various disciplines in this field. Basil was a versatile and richly gifted person. In addition to drawing, he was fond of opera, he sang well and wrote musical creations.
To get an art education, the master had to interrupt the course of study at the university and graduate from the Academy (with a silver medal). At this time, he had already successfully exhibited and received recognition and awards in the form of gold medals for his outstanding works. But all this did not turn the head of the young man, and he successfully completed his studies at the university at the law faculty.
With the help of an academic scholarship, the artist goes abroad, having visited the countries that have now become Austria, Germany, Italy. He spent a lot of time in France, in Paris, where he created the famous painting “The arrest of the Countess d'Etremont”, which brought him the title of academician.
The artist’s life was stormy and very interesting. In 1874, he and Ilya Repin live and work in French Normandy, where he writes numerous landscapes reflecting the beauty of the local nature. Two years later, he returns to Russia, and when the Russo-Turkish war begins, he becomes an official artist at the headquarters of the future Emperor Alexander III.
The following years of the artist’s life are closely connected with teaching and working with theatrical scenery. Teaching at the famous School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow is connected with the names of such future artists as Korovin, Levitan and many others.
At the exhibition of the Wanderers in 1877, Polenov’s painting “Moscow Courtyard” becomes famous and very popular, and the master himself becomes the founder of a new genre called “intimate landscape”.
Having become a member of the Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions, the artist is fond of landscape painting and travels a lot to places related to ancient history and the origin of Christianity. Love of nature and large open spaces makes him acquire an estate over the Oka River, which is now well known to all as Polenovo. There, the master arranged everything to his liking, building a house and art workshops according to his design. On his estate, he worked a lot and productively on canvases, and also educated rural children, including teaching them to paint.
In subsequent years, the artist repeatedly travels abroad to obtain the necessary information and art material for his paintings. He spent many years creating a series of gospel paintings, visited Italy and Germany.
During the First World War, his paintings participated in charity exhibitions held to raise funds for the wounded and victims of hostilities. After the revolution, the artist lived on his estate and continued to work on works of art, reflecting in them the beauty and vast power of Russian nature.
The master lived a long, fruitful and eventful creative life. He died at the age of 83 and was buried in Polenovo, in his favorite place, where he often painted from life. After the artist there were many paintings and his house, which became a museum.