Alexei Kondratyevich Savrasov was born May 12, 1830 to a merchant family in Moscow. From early age, his talent at art were evident, and he was already producing landscapes for sale as an adolescent. Against the wishes of his father, who wanted him to join the family business, he started at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture in 1844.
The early landscapes of Savrasov were in the tradition of the academy. In A View of Moscow from the Sparrow Hills (1848) and A View of the Kremlin in Inclement Weather (1851) one can observe the external influence of Romanticism. However, Savrasov’s keen powers of observation and sincerity of emotion manifest themselves in these landscapes. Over time, the artist devoted himself to a study of the character of the Russian landscape, and sought to convey the beauty of his native land.
Savrasov was one of the members of the art collective ‘The Wanderers’ (1870). Many of his works which were exhibited along with his fellow Wanderers were painted by him in the Volga region. Savrasov also travelled in Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, but he much preferred the region between Yaroslavl and Kostroma. In 1871, on the Volga, he created a number of studies for the best of his works including the paintings Pechersk monastery near Nizhny Novgorod, and The Rooks Have Arrived – which have become the most popular Russian landscapes, a symbol of the country.
Besides his artworks Savrasov fruitfully engaged himself in teaching activities. He led the landscape painting class at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, and among his students were Konstantin Korovin and Isaak Levitan.
By the late 1870s, the artist was ill, and his art reflected his decline. His last decade of life was spent in deep distress. He died on September 26, 1897 in Moscow. Isaak Levitan wrote: One of the most profound Russian landscape artists is no more. From Savrasov emerged a lyricism in landscape art and a boundless love for his native land. Truly, the late Savrasov created the Russian landscape, and this, his undoubted merit, will never be forgotten in the field of Russian art.
[Translated rather loosely from 9 октября — день памяти известного русского живописца-пейзажиста Алексея Саврасова.]