Korovin was born in Moscow to a merchant family officially registered as ‘peasants of Vladimir gubernia’. His father, Aleksey Mikhailovich Korovin, earned a University degree and was more interested in arts and music than in the family business established by Korovin's grandfather. Konstantin Korovin's older brother Sergey Korovin was a notable realist painter. Konstantin Korovin's relative Illarion Pryanishnikov was also a prominent painter of the time and a teacher at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.
In 1875 Korovin entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he was taught by Vasily Perov and Alexei Savrasov. His brother, Sergey was already a student of the School. During their student years the Korovins became friends with fellow students Valentin Serov and Isaac Levitan, Konstantin Korovin kept these friendship throughout his life.
In 1881-1882, Korovin spent a year at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, but returned disappointed to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He studied at the school under the new teacher Vasily Polenov until 1886.
In 1885, Korovin travelled to Paris and Spain. He later wrote, “Paris was a shock for me… [the] Impressionists… in them I found everything for which I was scolded back at home, in Moscow”.
Polenov introduced Korovin to Savva Mamontov's Abramtsevo circle: Viktor Vasnetsov, Apollinary Vasnetsov, Ilya Repin, Mark Antokolsky and others. The Abramtsevo circle's love for stylised Russian themes is reflected in Korovin's picture A Northern Idyll. In 1885 Korovin carried out work for Mamontov's Opera house. He designed the stage decor for Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, Léo Delibes' Lakme and Georges Bizet's Carmen.
In 1888, Korovin traveled with Mamontov to Italy and Spain, where he produced painting On the balcony, Spanish women Leonora and Ampara. Konstantin traveled within Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia, exhibited with Peredvizhniki. He painted in an Impressionist style, which later became more decorative. In the 1890s, Korovin became a member of the Mir iskusstva art group.
Korovin's subsequent works was strongly influenced by his travel to the North. In 1888 he was captivated by the stern northern landscapes, as seen in The Coast of Norway and The Northern Sea. His second trip to the North, with Valentin Serov in 1894, coincided with the construction of the Northern Railway. Korovin painted a large number of landscapes: Norwegian Port, Saint Trifon's Brook in Pechenega, Hammerfest: Aurora Borealis, The Coast at Murmansk and others. The paintings are built on a delicate web of shades of grey. The ‘etude style’ of these works was typical for the Korovin's art of the 1890s.
Using material from his northern trip, Korovin designed the Northern Railway pavilion at the All Russia Exhibition of 1896 at Nizhny Novgorod. Then in 1900, Korovin designed the Central Asia section of the Russian Empire pavilion on the Paris World Fair, and was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French government.
At the beginning of the twentieth century Korovin focused his attention on the theatre. He moved from Mamontov's opera to Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Departing from the tradition of stage decor, which only indicated the place of action, Korovin produced a ‘mood decor’, which conveyed the general emotions of the performance. Korovin designed sets for Constantin Stanislavski's dramatic productions, as well as Mariinsky's operas and ballets. He did the stage design for such Mariinsky's productions as Faust (1899), The Little Humpbacked Horse (1901) and Sadko (1906) that became famous for their expressiveness.
In 1905, Korovin became an Academician of Painting, and in 1909-1913 he was a professor at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.
During the World War I Korovin worked as a camouflage consultant at the headquarters of one of the Russian armies and was often seen at the front line. After the October Revolution Korovin continued to work in the theatre, designing stage sets for Richard Wagner's Die Walküre and Siegfried as well as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker (1918-1920).
In 1923 Korovin moved to Paris by the advice of the Commissar of Enlightenment, Anatoliy Vasilievich Lunacharsky, to cure his heart condition and help Korovin's handicapped son. There was supposed to be a large exhibition of Korovin's works but the works were stolen and Korovin was left penniless. For years he produced numerous ‘Russian winters’ and ‘Paris boulevards’ just to make ends meet.
In the last years of his life he produced stage designs for many of the major theatres of Europe, America, Asia and Australia, the most famous of which is his scenery for a production by the Turin Opera House of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel.
Korovin is represented in the following collections: The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; The State Museum of Theatre and Music, St. Petersburg; The Art Museum of Nizhniy Novgorod, Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia; The Lvov Picture Gallery, Lvov, Ukraine; Regional Museum of Fine Arts, Kostroma, Russia; Museum-Estate of V. Polenov, Tula region, Russia; The Art Museum, Yaroslavl, Russia; Regional Museum of Fine Arts, Rostov-on-Don, Russia, amongst others.