Fyodor Tolstoy: life and works

By Gwylym Owen

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Count Fyodor Petrovich Tolstoy (Russian: Фёдор Петрович Толстой; 21 February 1783 – 25 April 1873) was a Russian player who served as Vice-President of the Imperial Academy of Arts for forty years (1828–1868). His works – wax-reliefs, watercolours, medallions, and silhouettes – are distinguished by a cool superiority and spare and economical classicism.

Fyodor Tolstoy came from the Tolstoy family. His dad Count Pyotr Andreyevich Tolstoy, governed a ministry of conflict supplies. Tolstoy at the forefront began to paint under the running of his mother, Elizabeth Barbot-de-Marni. His first drawings, which are now stored in the Tretyakov Gallery, were made like he was 4 years old. At the age of nine he went to the give serve to care of his wealthy and influential cousin, Count Pyotr Aleksandrovich Tolstoy.

A year later, Fyodor entered the Jesuit College in Polotsk. Here, he studied painting, as skillfully as the sciences. Upon his accession to the throne, Emperor Paul I summoned Pyotr Tolstoy to Saint Petersburg, and Fyodor Petrovich returned to his parents. At the similar time, his daddy was fired, and the family’s circumstances deteriorated.

From June 1798 to June 1802, Fyodor Petrovich was educated in the Naval Cadet Corps. After finishing, he continued his education under the presidency of well-known scientists. He studied mathematics, astronomy, political economy, zoology, archaeology and numismatics. He next frequented the riding academy, and became a dashing horseman.

In this time, without any supervision, he painted yet lives, portraits and landscapes. After his father showed him a cameo depicting Napoleon, he started to learn the art of the medallist. Tolstoy visited the Imperial Academy of Arts’ classes of plastic arts. One of his teachers was the most in style Russian portraitist of the time, Orest Kiprensky.

In 1804, Fyodor Tolstoy was appointed an adjutant of Admiral Pavel Chichagov, and was forced to retire. From 1806 he worked in the Hermitage Museum. In 1806, he painted the Confidence of Alexander of Macedon to doctor Philippos, the Judgement of Paris, the Labours of Hercules, etc. For his wax bas-relief the Triumphal way in of Alexander of Macedon into Babylon (1809, now in the Hermitage Museum), Tolstoy was elected an trustworthy member of the Academy of Arts.

Starting 23 September 1810 he worked in the Department of the Mint and became the founder of medal effective in Russia. After the fight of Leipzig, he began a series of twenty-four medallions, devoted to the major battles of the Napoleonic Wars. Tolstoy’s medallions acquired wide reputation not without help in Russia, but afterward abroad. He was elected a advocate of almost anything the European academies of Good arts. In 1861, he made his last medal, dedicated to the emancipation of the serfs.

From 1820 to 1833, he employed the Neoclassical technique of “raw sketch,” or refined outline drawings without shading and hatchwork, to execute 63 illustrations for the Dushenka of Ippolit Bogdanovich. As regards painting, Tolstoy specialized in interior scenes, full of symmetrical lines and Neoclassical statuary. His Family Portrait (1830) “betrays a Romantic assimilation with both psychological detail and tricks of lighting, perspective, and frames”.

In 1816, he became operating in freemasonry, eventually participating in the meting out of the so-called “Lancasterian schools,” designed to propagate literacy. Although he was near to the founding fathers of the Decembrist societies, Tolstoy did not participate in their futile revolt. In 1826, he wrote two treatises for Nicholas I, About the moral make a clean breast of troops of Russia and About the acknowledge of the Russian Empire in association to its internal organization, in which he proposed a series of legislative, social and tax reforms.

In 1838, Tolstoy composed the ballet The Aeolian Harp. He wrote the libretto, carried out sketches for costumes, and, in over sixty pictures, determined the choreography. In 1842, he composed a second ballet, based upon Greek myth, Echo. Unfortunately, neither of them was mounted.

In 1843 his daughter Ekatarina Fedorovna Tolstoya was born. She would become a painter and marry Professor Eduard Junge.

Pushkin, who regarded Tolstoy as the finest of contemporary Russian artists, referred to him, not surprisingly, in his novel Eugene Onegin. In an 1825 letter to his brother, Pushkin asked him to procure a vignette for the additional edition of his poems: “What practically having it finished by Tolstoy’s illusion brush? No – too expensive, but how terrifically sweet” (the last parentage is taken from Ivan Dmitriev’s fable “The Fashionable Woman”).

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