Vasily Ivanovich Surikov (1848 -1916) was the foremost Russian painter of large-scale historical subjects. His major pieces are among the best-known paintings in Russia. He is principally noted for his treatment of episodes from the 17th century and the medieval period of Russian history. These works are remarkable for their thoroughly researched and detailed rendering of settings and costume and the drama of their presentation.
Surikov was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, where a monument to him was recently opened by his great-grandsons, Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky. In 1869-1871 he studied under Pavel Chistyakov at the Imperial Academy of Arts.
In 1877, Surikov settled in Moscow, where he contributed some imposing frescoes to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. In 1878 he married Elizabeth Charais, a granddaughter of the Decembrist Svistunov. The Decembrists were a group of Russian revolutionaries who in December 1825 led an unsuccessful revolt against Tsar Nicholas I. The leaders were executed and later came to be regarded as martyrs by the Bolsheviks and the Left.
In 1881 he joined the Peredvizhniki movement. From 1893 he was a full member of the St.Petersburg Academy of Arts. Surikov was interred at the Vagankovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.
Surikov painted images from Russia’s past that focused on the lives of ordinary people. His works are remarkable for the original way in which they represent space and movements of people. In some cases he seems to have painted the same image in more than one size, probably as a prototype to a bigger image which he has in his mind, or he may have liked the smaller version so much that he decided it would look nicer when enlarged.