St Petersburg has been called one of the most artistic cities in the world, and there are many reasons for such a designation. From lavish palace architecture and a rich theatre culture to some of the most renowned works of art, as well as numerous masterpieces dedicated to the city – the city has proven to be a home for all types of artistic souls, now and then. Here are just several of those great artistic talents who called St Petersburg home.
Alexander Pushkin (1799 – 1837)
Although the great poet was born in Moscow, St Petersburg played a significant role in his life, education, and artistic development. There, in 1820, he wrote his first long poem, Ruslan and Ludmila. Later, after his travels around Caucasus and Crimea, the poet returned to St Petersburg. The main character of one of his most renowned poems, Evgenyi Onegin, also lived in St Petersburg. It was also in St Petersburg where the dramatic, and deadly for Pushkin, duel took place.
Ilya Repin (1844 – 1930)
Ilya Repin, one of the most famous and remarkable Russian realism painters, studied at the St Petersburg Fine Art Academy, which is now named after Ilya Repin, paying tribute to his great talent. The rise of Repin’s artistic career was in the 1880s, when he created a series of portraits, also working in historical and domestic genres. Some of his most remarkable works, such as Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-73) and Sadko (1876), are now exhibited in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg.
Anna Akhmatova (1889 – 1966)
Anna Akhmatova was an amazing poet of great talent and a very tragic destiny. Three of her closest and beloved ones were either killed or imprisoned by the repressive Soviet regime: her first husband was executed, and her son and her third husband were sent to the Gulag camps, where the latter died. For many years, her poems were censored in the USSR, although her talent was globally acclaimed. In 1965 and 1966, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. An artist and a muse at the same time, her legacy has remained a part of the history of the city, as well as on numerous portraits made of her by her artistic friends.
Karl Fabergé (1846 – 1920)
Born in St Petersburg, Karl Fabergé continued the jewelry business of his father, later becoming the head of the House of Fabergé and creating some of the most well-known jewelry art pieces in the world: Fabergé eggs. Primarily ordered as presents for the tsar’s family, Fabergé eggs became so popular that the company created others for private clients. Currently, a large collection of Fabergé jewels is exhibited at the Fabergé Museum, located right in the heart of St Petersburg.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881)
Fyodor Dostoevsky spent many years in St Petersburg, and his literary legacy has marked lots of streets of the city, inspiring museums and excursions dedicated to his life and his literary characters. An author with a dramatic life, Dostoevsky is also one of the most psychological classics of Russian literature, and his masterpieces such as Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Demons, and others remain compelling to this day.
Lev Bakst (1866 – 1924)
Born in Grodno, Lev Bakst moved to St Petersburg at a young age, and the city became the place where he spent most of his life. Here, he found his sense of artistic expression, developed his style, and got to express himself in what is possibly his most recognized work: costume and decoration drawings for Diaghilev’s ballet Russian Seasons. Some of his masterpieces are now exhibited in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)
A composer, music professor, critic, and orchestra conductor – Pyotr Tchaikovsky knew everything about music, and his biggest talent was creating it. The author of ten operas, three ballets, seven symphonies, and hundreds of smaller musical masterpieces, he was one of those who shaped music during his time. The world-famous ballet Swan Lake is based upon his music, and is now shown in all major ballet theaters in the world.
Karl Bryullov (1799 – 1852)
Born in St Petersburg, Karl Bryullov started his artistic career there as well. After studying at the Fine Art Academy, he traveled around Europe, and visited Italy where he painted his most famous masterpiece, The Last Day of Pompeii. The painting earned acclaim at the Paris Art Salon and won the first prize there. His numerous works over the years, his distinctive artistic style, and a major influence on other Russian painters made him one of the most recognized Romantic painters in the country.
Nikolai Rerikh (1874 – 1947)
Nikolai Rerikh was born and grew up in St Petersburg, although most of his life was spent traveling. This distinctive painter, writer, philosopher, and archeologist organized several expeditions to central Asia, visited India and Tibet numerous times, and drew endless inspiration from his travels. The creator of over 7,000 paintings, he was definitely one of the most influential figures in Russian art of late 19th – early 20th century. In St Petersburg, there is a Rerikh Museum, where visitors can learn more about his life and art.