Lives of the Artists XXII

Vasily Vereschchagin (1842-1904) by his own account had an extraordinary memory. In his own words, ‘quite a scary’ recall of the past such that he could bring back any moment of his life in the finest detail, being certain that overall composition, arrangement of numerous individuals and even their faces would come to his mind with photographic precision. [1]

Hindu temple in Udaipur, by Vasily Vereshchagin. (1874-76)

Besides his memory, he was also extraordinarily stubborn. Brought up in an aristocratic milieu, he showed artistic aptitude from early life. The arts were considered infra dig in his society and he was sent to military and naval schools, where he was absolutely determined to excel, even though he was the youngest in his class. When he graduated, he was top ranked, and everyone expected a blazing career in the imperial navy. What he did next was unheard of – he resigned his commission and signed up to the Russian Imperial Academy of Art. Despite his parents’ and superiors disgust and intense criticism, he refused to give up his art.

Reference

[1] Natalia Medvedev, The Contradictions in Vereshchagin’s Turkestan Series: Visualizing the Russian Empire and its Others. PhD Dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles. 2009.

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