Graphics of V.V. Vereshchagin

The Graphic section of the works of V. V. Vereshchagin consists of nineteen drawings. All of them, except for two, were transferred from the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III to “Society of Fine Arts in memory of the artist V. V. Vereshchagin, for storage in the Public Museum in Nikolaev “in 1914.

Such data are included in the first catalog published in the year of the museum’s opening. But here it is necessary to emphasize some peculiarity of the edition. The works sent to Mykolaiv have rather conditional or generalized names. Often several sketches are united under one serial number, for example, “№2759. 5 drawings (travel, alb.) – 250 r. “. The catalog does not specify the size and time of creation of works.

However, for many years and in many publications, the authors refer to this rare museum publication. It was one of the few that gave an idea of the museum’s collection in the period from 1914 to 1941.

It should also be made specific that printed materials did not appear immediately after the Second World War.

Catalog of the museum collection “The V. V. Vereshchagin Mykolaiv Art Museum” for the first time since the end of the war, was published in 1959, but it lacks a section of graphic works. “This catalog includes works by a permanent exhibition of Russian masters of the pre-revolutionary and Soviet periods, Western European artists and sculptors.” Further in the text it is noted: “A special place in the exposition is occupied by the works of the artist V. V. Vereshchagin, located in a separate exhibit hall in the amount of 46 items. Works by V. V. Vereshchagin are stored in many museums of the country, but only Mykolaiv Art Museum is considered to be a monument to the artist. A separate museum space is reserved for Vereshchagin’s personal belongings and his famous paintings.”

Vereshchagin Vasily Vasilyevich. 1842 – 1904. Gorna Studena.

In 1962, on the occasion of the celebration of the 120th anniversary of the birth of the artist, the museum organized his personal exhibition. In addition to items from the museum’s own collection, works from other museums are involved in the exhibition, to be exact – museums of Odessa, Kyiv, St. Petersburg, Omsk, Minsk, Sevastopol, Kaluga, Irkutsk. Researcher of the museum Z.A. Makushina prepared “The catalog of V.V. Vereshchagin exhibition, devoted to the 120th anniversary of the birth of the artist”. It was published in the Mykolaiv printing house. The catalog contains only three artist’s drawings – “The Tomb of the Kings” from the Irkutsk Museum and two works that shortly before came from the Directorate of Art Exhibitions and Panoramas of the USSR to Mykolaiv – “Mountain Studen`” and “Mountain Studen`. Battalion camp.”

The next was the “Catalog of new exhibits of pre-revolutionary, Soviet and Western European painting.” It was also compiled by Z.A. Makushina, and was published in 1966 in Kyiv.

In a relatively short period of time that has passed since the publication of the first postwar catalog, the museum was lucky to replenish the collection of works by V.V. Vereshchagin’s six paintings. They are all included in the catalog.

In addition, the introductory article states that 16 pencil drawings that disappeared during the war were found and returned to the museum’s collection. Probably they mean the same drawings that had been in the collection since 1914. However, since the catalog was devoted to new paintings, the drawings of V.V Vereshchagin were not published.

Attempts to make a thorough study and list of works of the painter in The V. V. Vereshchagin Mykolaiv Art Museum took place in 1992, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth. A complete catalog of the master’s works was finally published. It consisted of three sections: painting, graphics, personal belongings.

The “Graphics” section consists of all 19 graphic works of the artist. But, unfortunately, it contains errors in the titles, in sizes of works and in time of creation. In the next years a great work of authentication has been carried out, as a result no works of indefinite years left. The history of the creation of academic drawings has been clarified. Also it has been ascertained to which picture the sketch entitled “Architectural drawing” belongs.

Vittelius. Drawing from the original. 1865.

The story of the museum’s five academic drawings by V. V. Vereshchagin  is quite interesting. They all have the same format and are made on greenish and cream colored paper with a soft pencil. The above mentioned works belong to the early period of the artist’s work. These academic drawings depict the gypsum and marble heads of the heroes of the ancient myths such as Ariadne, Niobe, Hercules, the ancient Roman general and naval commander Vipsanius Agrippa and the emperor Vitellius.

The first three – the heads of Ariadne, Niobe and Hercules – were donated before the opening of the museum by its founder, Prince Mykola Gedroyts. All of them, according to numbers 71, 72 and 82, were included in the catalog of the museum in 1914 (on page 60), among other works purchased by the prince for the collection of the museum.

The drawings on the reverse side have an interesting inscription in Russian: “I certify the authenticity of my father’s drawing. Apr. 29, 1914 V. Vereshchagin”. It was made in black ink by calligraphic hand and belongs to the artist’s son.

On the front side of the works with the image of Vitellius and Vipsanius Agrippa there is the date of creation – “February 9, 1865” and “February 13, 1865”. At that time Vereshchagin studied at Paris College of Art. His teachers were J.-L. Gérôme and A. Bida. As it turned out while studying the works, probably they were created in the Louvre watching ancient marbles.

During the German occupation of the city in 1941-1944, these five academic works by V.V. Vereshchagin disappeared from the museum collection. But in 1963 the museum received a letter from a resident of Batumi named V.V. Dedov. In the letter, a former Soviet Army soldier and a participant in The Second World War said that during the war in the field bag of a dead German soldier, he found drawings with some numbers and letters on them. In the course of time V.V. Dedov was able to decipher the inscriptions and realized that these are the works of V.V. Vereshchagin, that before the war belonged to the museum in Mykolaiv. In December 1964, five academic works of V.V. Vereshchagin were returned to the museum.


Consider the provenance of the next three works of the artist created in 1865. They are made on tracing paper with a graphite pencil and are preparatory works for the composition “Religious procession on the feast of Muḥarram in Shusha”. Large in size, it belongs to the State Tretyakov Gallery. The museum drawings are called “Voluntary Martyr”. They are all about the same format. Two  larger size drawings are stored in the museum collection for a hundred years already. They were obtained by the V. V. Vereshchagin Mykolaiv Art Museum probably from the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III  in 1914. The third work, the smallest, was presented a century ago at the opening of the museum by its founder, Prince Mykola Gedroyts.

The composition, to which sketches were made, was one of the first complex works. It marked the beginning of the artist’s independent activity on multi-figure compositions. Figures of Muslim self-torturers with swords are depicted on thin tracing paper. Similar works are also stored in the Kyiv National Art Gallery. Kyiv art critic V. Shlieiov dedicated his article “Recently found drawings by V.V. Vereshchagin ” to the restoration of Vereshchagin’s graphic works (Art magazine “Iskusstvo” №5 in 1987). He indicated that some drawings of this series were reproduced in a monograph by the German researcher E. Tsabel, published in Germany in 1900.

Most of Vereshchagin’s works from the museum collection belong to the early period of his work. In 1863-1864, the young artist traveled to the Caucasus in order to improve painting techniques and further intention to experiment with oil paints. Until then, he studied for three years at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, where he acquired basic professional skills in the studio of Professor Markov. However, V. V. Vereshchagin believed that independent work would bring more benefits and would give the opportunity to see a lot with his own eyes. Drawings “Tendons of the horse front legs”, “Dancing with Swords. Caucasian Essays” retain traces of immaturity. Using hatchwork, the artist tried to convey the movement of the dancers and the horse anatomy. In the above-mentioned article, V. Shlieiov attributes works depicting the horse anatomy to the second trip to the Caucasus. And the drawing “Dancing with Swords. Caucasian Essays” according to the art critic was made before visiting the Caucasus in 1863-1864.

Voluntary martyr. (Self-torturer). Etude for the composition “Religious procession on the feast of Muḥarram in Shusha”

In 1865 Vereshchagin went to the Caucasus for the second time. His independent work there was of great importance. The artist got the possibility to draw not only people but also animals in different states, to reproduce their temperament and habits. Drawing “Saddled horse” looks very natural and soft. It attracts attention with its completeness, expressiveness. Volumes are conveyed by shading, hatching and chiaroscuro contrasts.

The following two drawings on the canvas: “Plowboys and Yaks” and “Solovetsky Monastery. Fortress wall with a tower” have numbers on the front side. They coincide with the numbers listed in the 1914 catalog, although the titles of the works are given in a somewhat generalized way, for example – “Drawing from the album”. The attribution work made it possible to establish quite accurately the year of creation of the sketches and to determine what and where the artist painted. Restoration, which was carried out in 1981 in the Ukrainian state scientific-research restoration workshops, also played an important role. Restorer L. Yatchenko under the direction of H. Horyshniak restored “Plowboys and Yaks”. Experts found out interesting things about this graphic work.

The canvas “Plowboys and Yaks” depicts in the foreground diagonally in depth, a caravan of yaks accompanied by two mushers. It is painted by a thin line of a graphite pencil. In the lower right corner of the work there is a number – 2715. On the back there is another number – 193. These marks, as mentioned above, give the opportunity to assume that the work was in the pre-war collection of the museum. It is also possible that this work was part of the posthumous exhibition of the artist in 1904. Then it was called “Letter from a travel album to India” (1874-1875). We have an assumption that this drawing was taken as a basis for a picturesque oil etude. Now it is stored in the State Tretyakov Gallery under the name “Caravan of yaks loaded with salt, near Lake Tso-Moriri on the border of western Tibet.”

Plowboys and yaks.

The history of the second work also turned out to be interesting. In the summer of 1894, Vereshchagin visited one of the original monuments of the Russian North – the Solovetsky Monastery. Powerful walls, heavy squat towers, which ended with conical caps, made a deep impression on the artist with their strict and majestic appearance. “… This is a cyclopean structure,” he wrote in the book “On the Northern Dvina” (p. 113). Comparison of what is shown in the picture with numerous reproductions of fortress walls with towers clearly demonstrate the identity of their architectural forms. Certainly, in the work stored in the museum, Vereshchagin depicted a fragment of the Solovetsky fortress wall with a corner tower, probably Arkhangelsk tower.

The author accurately conveys the monumental forms of the tower, which at the same time have slender proportions. He depicts the expressiveness of the hipped roof of the tower with a lantern and the holes of the loopholes, staggered at different levels. Exceptional originality is provided to the Solovetsky Kremlin by building material – huge megalithic blocks of wild stone, that became the main formative element of the fortress. The boulders, located one above the other, make you feel the enormous pressure of the stone mass. Hence the special persuasiveness of the wall architecture, which the artist conveyed in the picture.

Solovetsky Monastery. Fortress wall with a tower. 1894.

The attribution of another work became an important step. Over a long period of time (also in the catalog of 1992) this drawing was called “The Field of Death”. In 2003, the museum employee T.V. Hahauz managed to establish the place and time of the sketch creation and to which series it belongs. After the attribution was confirmed, the work was named “The corner of the fortress in Chuguchak”.

One of the earliest, well-known Vereshchagin’s series was the so-called Turkestan series. It appeared after two trips to Central Asia. Moreover, during the second trip, which lasted from March 1869 to the late autumn of 1870, the artist visited the Mongol provinces of northwestern China. This happened shortly after the Dungan and Uyghur uprising against Chinese rule. As a result of which many Chinese cities were destroyed and a lot of people were killed. Vereshchagin found himself in Dzungaria almost immediately after the tragic events. He visited the cities of Tacheng, Ak-Kent and depicted what he saw in some drawings and sketches.

It was established and proved by attribution that the sketch from the Mykolaiv Museum certainly depicts the city of Chuguchak. The lifetime edition of the album “Turkestan. Etudes from nature by V.V. Vereshchagin ” helped a lot in this process. The album, contains a reproduction called “From the ruins of Chuguchak” (the exact title “The corner of the fortress in Chuguchak”). A careful comparison of the museum sketch with the album etude clearly showed that they depict the same area, the same architectural structure, the same genre motif. Vereshchagin left a confirmation that the picture depicts the landscape of the city of Chuguchak in the article “Memoirs of a war artist”, published during the artist’s lifetime in the magazine “Down with weapons!” in 1893 (published in Dresden and Vienna).

The corner of the fortress in Chuguchak.

Returning to the 1992 catalog, we note that the name and number 158 are indicated on the reverse side of the work. Perhaps the inscription was made by the artist.

T.V. Hahauz in her article “To the issue of one attribution” writes: “In our opinion, this character is the author’s numbering (used by the artist when he was preparing works for exhibition, grouping them by ethnographic types and geographical locations), and it indicates that the sketch “The Field of Death” was shown at one of his exhibitions, most likely at the first solo exhibition in 1873 in London, where a significant part of the Turkestan series was presented…” (p.300).

Concluding the story of this V.V. Vereshchagin’ graphic work, we recall that it was donated in 1914 by Prince Mykola Gedroyts. During the Second World War, together with many others, the drawing disappeared from the collection. Only in 1964 it returned to Mykolaiv. As the work required restoration, it was transferred to a scientific-research and restoration center in Kyiv in the early 1980s. After the restoration, the name “The Field of Death” and the number “158” disappeared from the reverse side.

In addition to the sketch “The corner of the fortress in Chuguchak”, the unfinished paintings “Cannibal” and “Architectural Drawing” also belong to the Turkestan series of the V. V. Vereshchagin Mykolaiv Art Museum.

The history of “Architectural Drawing”, the time of its creation, and the attitude to the Turkestan series were also recently clarified by museum staff. Once in the East, Vereshchagin discovered unique architectural monuments that testified to the high art, rich imagination of Central Asian masters, and their great performing skills. The artist begins to create architectural sketches, giving himself the task of capturing the amazing beauty of the architectural ornament of Central Asia.

“Architectural drawing” depicts a fragment – the base and lower part of the trunk of a wooden column. The author outlines the main dismemberment, the essential elements of decor and style of ornament.

Sketch of the front and back legs of the horse.

For a long time, the picture was associated with the painting “Presenting Trophies”, which belongs to the suite “Barbarians”. But in the mid-2000s, T.V. Hahauz came across a reproduction of the little-known painting “Praying Mullah” (whose location is unknown) in the multi-volume pre-revolutionary edition “Picturesque Russia”.

The canvas depicts fragments of two columns, that are very similar in type and architectural decor to a fragment from the museum collection. But the story of the picture did not end here. And it is worth noticing.

“Architectural drawing” to the painting “Praying Mullah” belonged to the works submitted for restoration to Kiev restorers. While working with the drawing, it was taken out of the passe-partout. The restorer O. Osadcha found on the back of the sheet a sketch depicting several human figures standing, sitting, flying. This finding and its further research is discussed in the above-mentioned article by art critic V. Shlieiov. The author writes about the comparison of the sketch with the canvas “Samarkand Zindan” from The Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan and sketches from the Kyiv National Art Gallery.

And in conclusion, what needs to be told is the story about the number on the front side of the exhibit. It is marked at the bottom right – “2660”. A drawing with this number and the name “Architectural drawing” was in the collection of the museum until 1941. Also it was included in the “Drawings” section of the catalog published in 1914.

Horse skeleton and muscles. Sketches.
Dancing with swords. Caucasian essays.

In 1959 two graphite pencil drawings were added to the graphic collection from the Directorate of Art Exhibitions and Panoramas of the USSR. Both drawings “Mountain Studen`. Battalion camp” and “Mountain Studen`” belong to the series “Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878.” The drawing “Mountain Studen`” contains three compositions made from an upper vantage point: a mountainous landscape and the location of a military campground. At the bottom is the inscription in Russian “Mount. Studen`”. The second sketch recreated a military tent camp, also located in this area. This is evidenced by the inscription – “Mount. Studen`. Battalion camp”.

The drawings are not dated. However, when preparing the catalog on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth (1992), the time and place of the creation of the works became clear.

The artist’s letter to his first wife E.K. Vereshchagina (Fisher) dated September 19 (October 1), 1877, has the following lines: “Now I intend to go to Mountain Studen`, where the main apartments of the Sovereign and the Grand Duke are located.” The second letter is addressed to V.V. Stasov was sent from Mountain Studen` and is dated October 9 (21), 1877. During this period, the artist was at the battle-ground in Bulgaria, where he created drawings. In conditions of combat circumstances and fast movement, it was more convenient for the battle painter to work with a pencil, sketching in an album. Most of the works of the Russian-Turkish campaign are free sketches. These are panoramas of areas with notes on the deployment of troops, fortifications, groups of soldiers having rest, soldiers in battle and on a campaign. This information made possible to establish the exact date – 1877, especially since the places where the sketches were made, indicated in the artist’s works.


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