To the 185th birth anniversary of Opekushin. Exhibit in detail: "Peter I"

Today, on November 28, we celebrate the 185th birth anniversary of Alexander Opekushin, the prominent Russian sculptor and full member of the Imperial Academy of Arts. All his works are characterised by simplicity and restraint, yet deeply individual style of execution.

Alexander Mikhailovich Opekushin (1838-1923) was born into a peasant family in the village of Svechkino. Danilovsky district of Yaroslavl province, from which Opekushin's family originated, had always been famous for its crafts. In Svechkino, Rybnitsy, Davydkovo, Ovsyaniki lived and worked family dynasties of hereditary stone cutters, modellers, plasterers. The Opekushin family also stood in this line. The sculptor's father, Mikhail Evdokimovich, was a skilful modeller. So, we can say that Alexander artistic gift of Alexander Opekushin matured genetically, absorbing the memory of entire generations of crafts masters. In this environment, the future sculptor grew up, learnt his first modelling skills and became familiar with the craft. Alexander's father made great efforts to arrange Alexander's studying in the drawing school of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts in St. Petersburg. Thanks to his exceptional abilities and diligence Opekushin graduated from the school and courses at the workshop of sculptor David Jensen by the age of seventeen.

After the death of his father, young Opekushin had to take care of the family. Nevertheless, in spite of his illness and financial problems, the young man did not give up hope of getting rid of serfdom. The sculptor confessed: "I am afraid that I will be an artist, but not a free man". Finally, in 1860 Alexander bought himself off the landowner Olkhina. It costed him 500 roubles. And the next year the young and free, full of hopes sculptor, married a peasant Evdokia Ivanovna Guskina.

A breakthrough role in the fate of Opekushin fate was played by his famous colleague Mikhail Mikeshin, who invited the novice sculptor to take part in work on the monument "Millennium of Russia" in Novgorod. The monument was a huge bell, "called to evangelise posterity about the heroic past of Russia". 129 figures -- people who created the history of Russia - from Rurik to Lermontov were placed on its three tiers. Opekushin executed one of the most notable figures -- Peter the Great.

Soon the sculptor gained popularity, and numerous orders allowed him to provide for his large family. Opekushin decorated Moscow mansions, created decorative compositions, statuettes, vases, large silver dishes and jewellery. He also made many marble and bronze busts of Aristotle, Plato, Zhukovsky, Vyazemsky and others.

A special theme for Opekushin was the erection of monuments to Russian emperors. Monuments to Alexander II, whom Opekushin often saw in his lifetime, were erected in Pskov (1886), Kishinev (1886), Astrakhan (1884), Czestochowa (Kingdom of Poland) (1889), Vladimir (1913), Buturlinovka (1912), Rybinsk (1911) and other cities of the Russian Empire. Monuments were created mainly on country-wide donations, the help of benefactors and the money of the royal family. In addition to monumental sculpture, Opekushin executed a large number of busts in marble and bronze, was engaged in sculptural decoration of Moscow mansions, state institutions and shops, made jewellery, decorations, sculptural compositions and tableware. Monasteries and churches commissioned him to sculpt crucifixes and icon cases. Newspapers called Opekushin "the best Russian sculptor", he was patronised by Alexander III and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. For his services Opekushin was honoured with various awards and diplomas, received a lifetime pension, while remaining a modest and godly man.

One of the works by Alexander M. Opekushin presented in the section "Russian Sculpture" of the museum Collection -- the sculpture "Peter I" was made by the artisan in 1872 for the 200th anniversary of the Emperor's birth.

Peter I -- in the Preobrazhenskiy uniform, in high boots, with a scarf elegantly tied round his neck, with a ribbon of honour over his shoulder. The Emperor is depicted in a complex perspective. With his right hand Peter I is pointing to a plan of St Petersburg lying at his feet with the inscription "Here will be St Petersburg".
The sculpture is harmoniously composed, the figure of Peter I is characterised by dynamic pose and individual interpretation. It brought A.M. Opekushin the title of academician and well-deserved public recognition. The statue was repeatedly exhibited at various exhibitions and, first of all, at the exhibition of the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1872.

Similar copies are stored in the State Hermitage, the State Russian Museum and the State Tretyakov Gallery.

The sculptors and their fates. Krivina O.A., Scientific reconstruction of creative biographies of Russian sculptors of the middle and second half of the 19th century. SPb, "Sudarynya" publishing house, 2006