Shubin, Feodor Ivanovich

Shubin Feodor Ivanovich. Russian sculptor of the XVIIIth century, representative of classicism.


Was born in 1740 in the family of state owned peasant in a fishers’ village near Kholmogory, Arkhangelsk province. Was engaged in fishing in the White Sea, as well as his fellow villagers. Feodor mastered bone-carving artisanship, traditional for Kholmogory from his childhood. Shubin left his native village land and went to St. Petersburg in 1759, following his great compatriot, and as some sources state, perhaps his relative, Mikhail Lomonosov. In St. Petersburg, Shubin continued carving bone and nacre. Apparently, Lomonosov was engaged in the destiny of the future sculptor and supported him: Shubin was admitted to the Palace as a stoker. Later he was "requested" to the Academy by the letter of the Academy of Fine Arts curator Shuvalov (Lomonosov’s close friend), where he studied from 1761 to 1766.

Being familiar with the folk art environment, Shubin studied in the Academy when he was already a mature artist, nevertheless, academic studies made him a master of sculpture. Shubin’s relief composition "The Murder of Askold and Dir" was awarded with the gold medal. This gave him the right for a pensioner's trip abroad. He had been working in Paris for three years, then in Rome for two years. Shubin had the opportunity to visit the Pompey and Herculaneum archaeological excavations. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1773.

In the period of staying abroad Shubin executed marble bust relief portrait of I.I. Shuvalov (1771, Tretyakov gallery). The first work of Shubin, which he created after returning home was the bust of A. M. Golitsyn (gypsum, 1773, the Russian Museum, marble, 1775, Tretyakov gallery). It showed the high level of the artist’s mastery and skills. Shubin returned to Russia with the title of the member of Bologna Academy of Fine Arts. He was elected the Russian academician for the portrait of Catherine II soon.

Shubin worked on the series of fifty-eight round marble bas-reliefs (diameter of about 70 cm) depicting princes and reigning monarchs from Rurik to Elizabeth Petrovna, performing the order of Catherine II. The bas-reliefs were intended for the round hall of the Chesmensky Palace. Nowadays they are in the Armory.

In the next ten years, Shubin carried out numerous orders for decorative works. They are - statues and relief for the Marble Palace, sculptures for the Trinity Cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky monastery, the marble mausoleum for Lieutenant-General P. M. Golitsyn. A statue of Pandora for the Grand cascade of Peterhof, created to replace of the decaying leaden sculpture – turned out to be his last work.

The most prominent portraits of 80s are the busts of P. B. Sheremetev (1783, Kuskovo) and General I.I. Michelson (1785, RM), a medallion with the image of Catherine II and her sculptural bust (1783, RM). Apart from his other works was Shubin’s statue of "Catherine II — the Legislator" (1789-1790, RM). This statue, depicting the Empress in the image of the goddess Minerva was very famous and enjoyed great success. Nevertheless, the sculptor did not receive neither compensation from the Impress, nor the professors' chair in the Academy, since the portrait sculpture was ranked as a "low genre".

Over the time, the interest to the works of Shubin faded away. Done without embellishment, his portraits lose popularity among high-society audience. They preferred to have flatted perfect portraits. The artist was forced to ask for the enrollment to the position of adjunct Professor in the sculpture class. Besides, he wrote the petition to the Council of the Academy and requested a paid position. Both letters remained unanswered. In 1792, Shubin turned to Catherine. Two years later the celebrated master was appointed a Professor, but without the provision of a paid position.

The hardships undermined his health – he was a sick man, burdened with a large family by that time already. The situation was getting severe. He turned for help to Paul in 1797. In a year he submitted a request of the Academy to let him live in the government-owned country house with firewood and candles. However, his petition was left without attention. Shubin’s eyesight became very poor, his house and workshop with his creations burnt away in 1801.

Nevertheless, in spite of all this Shubin’s spirit was unbroken. In one of his last works — the bust of Alexander (1801, Voronezh regional Museum of fine arts) people could see the cold indifference of the Emperor under his external affability. Later, the Emperor Alexander l showed mercy and presented the diamond ring to the sculptor. The Academy had to follow this example and provided the artist with the state apartments, firewood and candles. By the decree of Alexander I Shubin was finally appointed the adjunct Professor with a salary. However, his health was completely ruined and he died soon – on May 12, 1805.