Nikolai Vasilievich Kharitonov

Nikolai Vasilievich Kharitonov

1880 —1944
Nikolai Kharitonov (Nicholas Basil Haritonoff) was a prominent Russian painter of the Academic School, a brilliant portraitist and a master of the landscape genre, a pupil of I. E. Repin, who used to combine Realism and Impressionistic tendencies in his works. Kharitonov was born on December 9, 1880, in a simple peasant family in the village of Plishkino, which no longer exists, the Mologsky district of the Yaroslavl province. After graduating from rural school, being a twelve-year-old boy, Kharitonov went to his relatives in St. Petersburg and got a job in the paper shop, and, later, was also working in the workshop which specialised in the production of signboards for stores. Nikolai Vasilyevich has begun his artistic education and career in a peculiar way - around 1985 he went to the island of Valaam, where he became a novice in the Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery, and he was painting icons and religious paintings for two following years, scrupulously studying this ancient skill. On his return to St. Petersburg, Kharitonov has begun to attend classes at the Drawing School of the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and also was developing his proficiency in drawing in a private art studio of a talented academic painter and etcher, L. E. Dmitriev-Kavkazsky. In 1901, Nikolai Vasilievich joined the Painting Department at the Higher Art School at the Academy of Arts, and a year later began training in the studio of the famous, outstanding artist - I. E. Repin.

From 1907 the artist has started to participate in art exhibitions in Ekaterinodar. First, taking part in the III recurrent exhibition of the Academy of Arts, which was organised by a renowned gallerist and collector F. A. Kovalenko, Kharitonov showed only one painting "Girls on the Snow", which was subsequently acquired by Kovalenko himself. However, in the following year, inspired by the previous success, the artist selected ten of his works. Since that period, the importance of Kharitonov as an artist and his public recognition have begun to gain momentum. In 1909, the painting "Gypsy" brought fame and glory to the artist, and, consequently, the opportunity to participate in even more acclaimed and famous exhibitions. Being a persistent, hardworking, capable student, Kharitonov has earned Repin's approval and support, and, as follows, Nikolai Vasilievich received the official title of an artist for his painting named "Icarus" in October that year. In 1911, the artist obtained his first prize from the Imperial Society of Encouragement of the Arts for the genre painting "On the Swing". The artist has joined the Kuindzhi society, the Community of Artists and the Yaroslavl Art Society. After graduation, Nikolai Vasilievich was travelling a lot across Russia, painting landscapes of the Russian North and the Caucasus, and Europe, living for some time in Paris, as well as in Germany, studying at the Munich Academy of Arts. In Paris, the artist met with the legendary Russian opera singer F. I. Chaliapin and later created his famous portraits of Chaliapin, as well as a series of pencil drawing depicting the great performer. Kharitonov also painted portraits of members of the Royal family of Nicholas II. In 1913, at the International Exhibition in Munich, the painting "the Lady in Black" was acquired by the Leipzig Museum. That occasion signified a great success for the artist. In 1914 Kharitonov was awarded another prize named after the Princess Eugenia of Oldenburg for his work "Holiday in the Village". During the World War I, Nikolai Vasilievich was drafted into the army as an official portrait painter in order to depict the officers of the Russian Army. While still in Russia, Nikolai Vasilievich was often returning to his native Mologsky region. The nature of that place, which was so dear to the artist's heart, is captured in numerous sketches, etudes, and finished works reflecting a peaceful spirit of the countryside. The artist was regularly exhibiting his works at various prestigious exhibitions, including Spring Exhibitions at the Imperial Academy of Arts, the 44th exhibition of the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions (1916), the 1st exhibition of paintings, etudes and sketches of the Kuindzhi Society (1917), the 1st State Free Exhibition of Works of Art in Petrograd (1919), the Art Exhibition "Lotus" in Rostov-on-Don (1919).

After the Revolution, in response to the tenuous political environment in the country, Kharitonov has left his homeland forever and first moved to Yugoslavia. Before emigrating, the artist had sold almost all his works to his friend F. A. Kovalenko. In Zagreb, Nikolai Vasilievich was employed as a set designer at the Croatian People's Theatre, working, for instance, on the N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov's "Snow Maiden" opera in 1921. With the first wave of Russian emigration to America, in 1923, Nikolai Vasilievich left for New York. Since then, communication with the homeland was lost for Kharitonov - even correspondence with the artist's relatives was impossible due to the strenuous international relations. The artist has received American citizenship and gained fame of an exceptional portraitist in the USA. Kharitonov's work was banned in the Soviet Union for a long time because of Nikolai Vasilievich's political anti-revolutionary and anti-Soviet views, as well as, his connection with the White movement. Kharitonov died September 30, 1944, in New York. His works are now in private collections and museums across the world. In Russia, the artist's paintings can be found in the State Russian Art Museum, Theatre Museum named after Bakhrushin, Krasnodar Regional Art Museum, the Museum of F. I. Shalyapin, the Museum of Yaroslavl, and other significant cultural institutions.


(2012) Гений живописи из Мологи [online] Ярославская областная газета: Золотое Кольцо. Available at:
Лейкинд, О., Л., Махров, К., В., Северюхин, Д., Я. (2011) Харитонов Николай Васильевич [online] Искусство и Архитектура Русского Зарубежья. Available at:
Лейкинд, О., Л., Северюхин, Д., Я. (1994) Художники русской эмиграции (1917-1941). Санкт-Петербург: Издательство Чернышева.
Малыгин, А. (1928) Путеводитель по Художественной галерее. Ярославль.