On September 26, 1978, the Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Zhuravlyova discovered a minor planet 3558 Shishkin, named after one of the most significant landscape painters in the nineteenth century: Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin. Not only does this event honor Shishkin as being one of the great landscape painters of the 19th century, but it also makes his recognition universal.
Indeed, Shishkin and his landscape paintings present us with a world full of life force. “I hope the time will come,” Shishkin once stated, “when all Russian nature, alive and penetrated by spirit, will look from canvases of Russian artists.” On the one hand, Russian forests became Shishkin’s endless source of inspiration; on the other hand, his works defined Russia, promoting pride in the native landscape. The famous critic Stassov described Shishkin’s paintings as “landscapes for heroes,” for no one would depict trees with such passion and heroism as Shishkin. Under his brush, the trees carry a sense of the epic. They hold their heads up and throw out their chests like human beings. Each marked with individuality, they altogether present a sense of magnificence. At the same time, as his friend Ivan Kramskoi noted, Shishkin approached the “wild” and “ferruginous” subject matter with a meticulously scientific method. He calculated the composition and colors in a Realist manner. Either way, Shishkin makes his landscape an empire filled with a theatrical and spectacular experience.
Shishkin was born to a merchant family in the provincial town Yelabuga (today the Republic of Tatarstan). His father, an amateur archaeologist and folklorist who was fond of antiquity, might have had the most direct artistic influence on Shishkin. In 1844, Shishkin went to the Kazan grammar school, which he thought, according to his autobiography, was a “narrow-minded” obstacle to his aspirations. He left Kazan in 1848 and never returned. Shishkin then attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture to pursue his passion for art. He continued to the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts, graduating with the highest honors and a gold medal. On the imperial scholarship, he took off to Switzerland and Germany for further studies. Upon his return, he became a member of the Circle of the Itinerants and of the Society of Russian Watercolorists.
From 1873 to 1898, Shishkin became the professor of painting at the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts. At the same time, he participated in exhibitions at the Academy of Arts, the All-Russian Exhibition in Moscow (1882), the Nizhniy Novgorod (1896), and the World Fairs (Paris, 1867 and 1878, and Vienna, 1873). He was also closely associated with the Peredvizhniki movement and owned an impressive collection of drawings and etchings.
Kramskoy, Ivan N., 1837-1887. 1880. Portrait of Ivan I Shishkin. Place: Gosudarstvennyi russkii muzei (Saint Petersburg, Russia). https://library.artstor.org/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822000875680.
“(3558) Shishkin.” The International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center. https://minorplanetcenter.net/db_search/show_object?object_id=3558.
Charles, Victoria, Ivan Shishkin, Parkstone Press International, 2014.
“Ivan Shishkin.” Art Renewal Center. https://www.artrenewal.org/artists/ivan-shishkin/2785.
Klevantseva, Tatyana. “Prominent Russians: Ivan Shishkin.” Russiapedia. https://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/art/ivan-shishkin/.
Scott, Dan. “Ivan Shishkin—Czar of the Forest.” April 27, 2020. Draw Paint Academy. https://drawpaintacademy.com/ivan-shishkin/.