Nikolai Sverchkov (1817-1898)

The herdsman

Nikolai Sverchkov (1817-1898)
The herdsman
signed in Cyrillic 'N Sverchkov' (lower left)
oil on canvas
33¼ x 39¾ in. (84.5 x 101 cm.)
Acquired by the aunt of the present owner before 1925, and thence by descent.

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Lot Essay

Many of the paintings and sculptures of Nikolai Sverchkov, who was considered the best Russian painter of animal subjects of his generation, were commissioned by leading horse breeders and collected by many important members of the nobility, including Napoleon III and Tsar Alexander II.

Sverchkov's father, who was the head groom at the Royal Stables, insisted that his son enter government service despite his early talent for drawing. While working at the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg, Sverchkov would draw the street activity occurring outside his window. He eventually entered the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts as a free artist in 1840 and quickly established a reputation for painting horses.

Sverchkov spent significant time traveling across Russia visiting horse farms, while also making sketches of peasant life that he would later develop into paintings. While this painting reflects the growing interest in peasant themes in art of the nineteenth century, its success lies in its sensitive portrayal of the interdependent relationship between peasants and nature.

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