Much admired by his contemporaries, Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1848-1926) was a famous Russian artist who helped to promote a change in Russian art during the 1890s. A graduate of St. Petersburg Academy of Art, Vasnetsov first became known as a genre painter, creating pictures of everyday subjects. By the 1870s, after completing a series of illustrations of Russian fairy tales and legends, Vasnetsov decided to dedicate himself entirely to the study of Russian folklore and epic tradition. His unconventional treatment of folklore subjects defied the cannons of accurate realism which were accepted at the time in historical painting. He emphasized the decorative and followed the verbal and pictorial traditions to personify what became to be known as a 'neo-Russian style.'
In 1884-1889 while working on a painting of the interiors of St. Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev, Victor Vasnetsov became interested in the Russian icon tradition. He designed a wooden house for himself in the old Russian style, which he filled with a collection of icons from 16th and 17th Centuries. Zakharov's portrait depicts the artist in front of one such icon no doubt from his prized collection.