Alexander Varnek

Alexander Grigoryevich Varnek (born St. Petersburg, 1782 - died 1843) was a Russian painter, noted for his portraits of Russian society figures.

Alexander Varnek
Александр Григорьевич Варнек
Varnek, Self-Portrait (1804)
Born(1782-02-15)February 15, 1782
DiedMarch 19, 1843(1843-03-19) (aged 61)
EducationMember Academy of Arts (1810)
Alma materImperial Academy of Arts (1803)
Known forPainting


He was a pupil of Dmitry Levitzky and Stepan Shchukin at the Imperial Academy of Arts.[1] He went abroad (1801–1809) as a representative of the Academy and later returned as professor and advisor.[2]

Along with other artists of the period, Varnek was somewhat restricted in his choice of subject matter due to the political climate and censorship that operated, especially during the reign of Nicholas I. Under censorship, artists were expected to be complacent about the conditions of Russian life. Patrons who commissioned work rarely strayed from acceptable religious and historical themes while artists who chose their own subjects tended to confine themselves to "safe themes."[3] Thus, Varnek's specialty became portraiture.

In his own lifetime, he was regarded as a "celebrity artist."[4]


He was particularly noted for his masterful drawing, his harmonious, if not particularly vivid coloring, the ability to capture a close resemblance, appropriate lighting, and in general for his conscientious execution without embellishment. Contemporaries highly rated his portraits, consequently he created many works of this sort. Particularly striking are his many portraits; a portrait of Madame Khatova (the wife of General Alexander Ilich Khatov), a life-size portrait of Count Alexander Stroganov, a portrait of the former president of the Academy, Alexey Olenin, and the paintings "Head of a Young Turk", "Boy with Dog", and "Fiddler". In addition, Varnek painted icons representing the Annunciation and the Four Evangelists. These latter are in the chapel of the Academy of Arts.

Selected portraitsEdit


  1. ^ Gosudarstvennyĭ russkiĭ muzeĭ, The Russian Museum: A Short Guide: Ancient Russian Art, 18th Century Art, Art in the First Half of the 19th Century, Saint Petersburg, (Russia), Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955, p. 106; Hunter-Stiebel, P., Stroganoff: the palace and collections of a Russian noble family, Portland Art Museum in collaboration with Harry N. Abrams, 2000, p. 161
  2. ^ Neverov, O., Borisovich, M P., The Hermitage: Essays on the History of the Collection, Slavia Art Books, 1997, p. 71
  3. ^ Perkins, E.L., "Nicholas I and the Academy of Arts," Russian History, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1991,, pp 51-63
  4. ^ Neverov, O., Borisovich, M P., The Hermitage: Essays on the History of the Collection, Slavia Art Books, 1997, p. 14

Further readingEdit