3 curious facts about Viktor Vasnetsov paintings

Tretyakov Gallery
This Russian artist is most famous for his fairy-tale works, featuring characters from the Russian folklore. But he is much more beyond that.

1. Viktor Vasnetsov did’t show his ‘Baba Yaga’ painting to anyone

Viktor Vasnetsov. Baba Yaga (1917)

The fairy-tale canvas features the old witch ‘Baba Yaga’ in a red flaming dress kidnaping a little boy in a white shirt. And it dates back to the year 1917, when the Bolshevik Revolution took place. The artist worked on the painting for almost 20 years and, in fact, didn't give it any revolutionary meaning at all.

Still, he didn't want the red evil witch to be associated with Soviet power and especially not the confrontation between the Reds and the Whites during the Civil War. Therefore, he didn't display the painting.

It was shown to the public for the first time only in 1927 at the posthumous exhibition of paintings by Viktor Vasnetsov and, since then, it has not left the walls of his house-museum.

2. He also painted Serov’s ‘Girl with Peaches’

Viktor Vasnetsov. Portrait of Vera Mamontova (1896)

In general, Russia’s main fairy-tale artist didn't paint portraits to order, but, in his work, there were a lot of them, mostly of friends and acquaintances from the inner circle.

During creative exercises in the Abramtsevo Estate art residence, he drew a portrait of Vera Mamontova, the same ‘Girl with Peaches’ from Valentin Serov's painting, but grown up. She was the daughter of wealthy entrepreneur Savva Mamontov, who gathered artists on his estate and gave them an opportunity to train their skills.

Valentin Serov. Girl with Peaches (1887)

Vasnetsov promised to present the portrait to Vera, but with a condition - if she married a Russian (the Mamontov family spent a lot of time in Europe and there was a possibility that the girl could choose a foreigner as a groom).

And so it happened and now the portrait is kept in the collection of the Abramtsevo museum-reserve.

And here's another portait by the same girl.

Viktor Vasnetsov. Boyarina (Portrait of Vera Mamontova), 1884

3. He reformed religious art

Vasnetsov is known as Russia's foremost storyteller. But, a large stratum of his work was related to church painting. He worked on the Church of the Savior on the Blood in St. Petersburg and on the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on Presnya in Moscow. Vasnetsov spent about 10 years of his life painting St. Vladimir's Cathedral in Kiev (then the Russian Empire) at the end of the 19th century.

His artistic view of biblical topics was completely innovative, he proposed new images and vision. For example, he painted the drum of the dome of the Kiev cathedral with a subject called: ‘The Joy of the Righteous about the Lord’.

‘The Joy of the Righteous about the Lord’ by Viktor Vasnetsov. Left part
‘The Joy of the Righteous about the Lord’ by Viktor Vasnetsov. Central part
‘The Joy of the Righteous about the Lord’ by Viktor Vasnetsov. Right part

A three-part sketch of this mural is stored in the Tretyakov Gallery. On the triptych, we see a completely new image of a heavenly city, the gates of which are guarded by archangels. And we see images of real persons, including King David, Faith, Hope, Love and their mother Sophia and many others.

These and other paintings can be seen at the exhibition “Vasnetsovs. The Link of Generations” in the New Tretyakov Gallery, which will run until November 4, 2024.

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