okolov Pyotr Petrovich
(St. Petersburg 1821 - St. Petersburg 1899)
Pyotr was from a family of Russian artists. His father Pyotr Fyodorovich Sokolov (Moscow 1791 - 1848 Stary Merchik, now in Kharkiv region, Ukraine), studied at the Academy of Arts in St Petersburg from 1800 to 1810 and continued to live there until 1846, when he moved to Moscow. He was the first Russian master to paint portraits only in pure watercolours, a technique that supplanted the miniature portrait during the period 1820–50. Sokolov’s subtle lyricism, the delicacy of his use of colour, the lightness and vivacity of his style of painting and the sincerity of his interpretation of character all contributed to the widespread popularity of his portraits. Among Sokolov’s best works are portraits of Nikita Murav’yov (1824), a leading member of the Decembrist conspiracy of 1825, General Nikolay Rayevsky (1826), hero of the War of 1812 against the French, and Aleksandr Pushkin (1836; all Pushkin, A. S. Pushkin Museum).
Sokolov travelled widely in Russia and painted a number of sharply observed genre scenes depicting the everyday life of peasants and landowners. He was also a leading book illustrator, and his illustrations for the novel Dead Souls by Nikolay Gogol are especially renowned. These were executed in watercolour in the late 1880s and the 1890s and were produced in two cycles, the first in colour and the second in black and white. His interpretation of the text was intensely dramatic, verging on the grotesque, but it was also extraordinarily detailed in its observation of everyday life.