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Gavriil Skorodumov (1754-1792)

18 March - 10 May 2004
The Benois Wing

The exhibition is devoted to the oeuvre of Gavriil Skorodumov, one of the first Russian engravers, an exceptionally gifted and educated artist. Skorodumov was talented in engraving and painting, drawing and miniature, and was one of the first Russian artists to be acknowledged in Europe. The exhibition presents 70 works of Gavriil Skorodumov, including 60 engravings, three paintings, five drawings, and two steel plates. Gavriil Skorodumov was born in St. Petersburg to a family of hereditary painters. In 1764 he entered the Academy of Arts, where he studied in painting and engraving classes. Skorodumov's greatest success during the years of studies was the album of engravings "Explanation of short human proportion" - the work, which became the study aids for drawing for many years. In 1772 Skorodumov graduated from the Academy of Arts with the First gold medal, and in 1733 was sent to London to continue his education, where, in the workshop of the famous engraver Francesco Bartolozzi, he quickly mastered the techniques of dotted line and pencil manner engraving, unknown in Russia. Very soon the young artist worked out his own creative manner and style of coloured, dotted line engraving. From 1775 Skorodumov started to get orders from London publishers and engravings' traders. For several years he recreated in his engravings the pictures of Angelica Kaufmann, a fashionable artist, who created compositions after the antique motives. Working on these sheets, highly popular in England, Skorodumov mastered his own style of coloured engraving. The artist also worked on his own originals, like, for example his portraits of Yekaterina Dashkova and Sergey Rumyantsev - true masterpieces of engraving of the 18th century. In 1782 Gavriil Skorodumov got a personal invitation from the Empress Catherine II and returned to Russia. The significant works, made in St. Petersburg, were the portrait of Catherine II after the original painting by Fedor Rokotov, profile portrait of Catherine II after the original by F. De Mayce, and St John the Baptist with a Lamb after the original by Bartolome Murillo. In 1791-92 Skorodumov started to work on the series of St. Petersburg views. He undertook this project on his own will and recreated his own drawings. In this series, the ceremonial part of the city is shifted to the background, and the main role is played by the Vassilyevky Island banks. Skorodumov displayed artistic audacity and originality both in the conception and composition. The variety of genre scenes on the foreground, sketches from typical every-day-life, the knowledge of tiny details and peculiarities of St. Petersburg daily life show the artist's true interest in the city life. Later, these engravings influenced greatly the formation of the painterly tradition of depicting St. Petersburg. The artist's early death put an end to his creative path and the work remained unfinished. In addition to his main occupation - engraving, Skorodumov paid much attention to water-colours, painting and miniature. From Skorodumov's painterly heritage only two portraits have preserved - the portraits of Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich and Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna.