Nikolai Nikolaevich  Gritsenko

Nikolai Nikolaevich Gritsenko

1856 —1900
Nikolai Gritsenko was a marine artist, naval officer and an avid explorer, who was fascinated by the sea and long-distance voyages. The artist recalled that even in the early childhood he was dreaming about experiencing fresh sea air. His superb watercolours, sketches, and paintings are dedicated to the sea, architectural landscapes of his favourite cities, the images of the Russian Navy ships and fishing boats, picturesque views of seaports and harbours, nature of the European part of Russia and Siberia, and to vivid experiences of his countless travels. The artist was born in Kuznetsk (now Novokuznetsk), the Siberian town, in Tomsk province on May 8, 1856, in a family of health professionals. His father, Nikolai Semenovich Gritsenko, was a doctor, and his mother, Anna Gritsenko, was a midwife. When the artist was five years old, the family moved to Tomsk. Vast areas covered with forests and the chain of hills of his native places are imprinted in the heart of the artist. Being a child, Gritsenko travelled with his father around, and since then, the artist's passion for travelling and discovering new places, countries, and landscapes has never left him.

Gritsenko studied in the Tomsk gymnasium for boys and already then demonstrated an incredible talent for drawing. According to the well-preserved Gritsenko's early drawings, he could easily sketch of a peaceful village or a ship which bravely conquers the sea. When Gritsenko was nineteen years old, he relocated to Kronstadt to be trained in the Kronstadt Technical School of the Maritime Department at the faculty of engineering. He was doing his internship on a ship factory, and from 1880 he was enlisted in the Navy crew on the clipper 'Cruiser', which took Gritsenko on his first voyage abroad in 1881 after he had been promoted. Holding a position of a naval engineer, Gritsenko got on board of a military ship called 'Arrow'. Starting from 1882, he sailed across the Baltic Sea and to more distant countries on a frigate 'Vladimir Monomakh'. The artist did not take his art seriously at that time and called his watercolours and drawings 'preliminary study sketches'. In 1885, Gritsenko was sent to the Admiralty, and the artist's talent soon has found an enthusiastic response from his superiors, after which Gritsenko was offered a position of an artist of the Maritime Ministry. Since then, Gritsenko's artistic career has been further developed at the Imperial Petersburg Academy of Arts, which the artist started to attend as a guest-student in 1885. Gritsenko was fortunate enough to have a talented marine painter and professor L. F. Lagorio as his mentor. Since 1886, the artist began to take part in various exhibitions in addition to the Academy of Arts, such as exhibitions of many associations and groups of Russian artists: 'Association of Travelling Art Exhibitions' (Peredvizhniki), 'Moscow Society of Art Lovers', 'Society of Russian Watercolourists'.

In 1887 Gritsenko was sent to Paris to undergo two-year practice under the guidance of a Russian marine artist A. P. Bogolyubov, who had an incredible impact on Gritsenko's career. Gritsenko has formed a very special relationship with France, and particularly Paris, and he was continuously coming back to the city since his first visit. Gritsenko plunged into French culture and was passionately absorbing the trends of European art. Later in his career, as a consequence, critics have been quite negative about Gritsenko's 'too Western' manner of artistic expression, devoid of a true Russian soul. The artist also met his future wife Lyubov Tretyakova, a daughter of the famous collector and patron of arts, Pavel Tretyakov, in Paris. Gritsenko was always welcomed in France, and, moreover, shortly after his death, in 1900, the artist received a medal and a title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour for services to France. The artist has managed to make two journeys around the world, and one of which happened together with Tsarevich Nikolay Aleksandrovich (later, Emperor Nikolay II) in 1890 - 1891 on the frigate 'Memory of Azov'. Also, Gritsenko travelled a lot to Italy, France and Netherlands, creating sea bays, quays, sandy beaches, fishing villages of the North Sea and rural landscapes of Normandy and Brittany. The artist actively worked en plain air, the technique, which Bogolyubov taught him. He enrolled in a private art school of the famous French artist Fernand Cormon. One of Gritsenko's solo exhibitions took place in the world-famous gallery of Paul Durand-Ruel in 1896. Today, his work can be seen in the Tretyakov Gallery and the State Russian Museum, as well as in other significant collections. Gritsenko died of tuberculosis on December 8, 1900, at the age of 44, and was buried in France, on the territory of the Russian cemetery of Menton.

ван дер Боон, Й. (2017). Живописец-маринист Николай Гриценко. [online] Available at:
Теркель Е. «Корабль мой плывет осторожно…» Николай Гриценко // Русское искусство. 2008. №1. С. 99.