Alexey Gavrilovich Venetsianov (Russian: ; 18 February 1780–4 January 1847) was a Russian painter, renowned for his paintings devoted to the peasant life and ordinary people.
Alexey Venetsianov was born to a merchant family of Greek descent in Moscow. He entered state service in the early 19th century and moved to St. Petersburg, where he began to study art. He first practiced with pictures of the Hermitage and portraits of friends. He later became acquaintances with Vladimir Borovikovsky and lived in his house as a disciple. He tried to work as a freelance portraitist, but had a little commissions. In 1811 the Board of the Academy of Arts awarded him the title of an Academician for his two works - Self-Portrait and Portrait of K. I. Golovachevsky and the Younger Pupils of the Academy.
In 1819, devoting himself purely to art, Venetsianov left the service, bought the village of Safonkovo, and settled there. During this time he painted the nature around him. These works were of pinnacle importance in his career. He painted portraits of peasants, scenes of rural life. He was the first to depict peasants’ life in Russian art. His works were of great success at the exhibition of 1824, from which he received critical praise.
Venetsianov wished to become a professor in the Academy of Arts, but the academicians did not approve him mainly because he lacked academic training. At the end of 1810s he began to attract young people from common people from poor backgrounds and even serfs like Grigory Soroka to teach them painting. In the mid 1820s he had a group of followers. Thus he started his own school of painting. Tsar Nicholas I, who liked to stimulate ‘national trends’, expressed his approval for the artist and appointed him a court painter. This title gave him the financial support necessary for running the school, where tuition was practically free. Venetsianov died in an accident in 1847 when his horses dashed off and his carriage fell down a steep slope.