Though also an accomplished landscape painter, Valentin Alexandrovich Serov was known as a portraitist, and was undoubtedly one of the best of the 19th century (which is saying something) and perhaps the best portrait painter in Russian art.
Originally from St. Petersberg, a Russian cultural center, Serov was the son of parents who were both respected composers, and grew up in an atmosphere of rich with interesting visitors and guests. He had the opportunity to study with the great Russian painter Ilya Repin at a young age.
Amid his commissions for royalty and the wealthy elite, artists like Repin and Issac Levitan (above, 6th down) would later become favorite subjects, along with writers and musicians.
Serov took some influence from the Russian and French Impressionists, though originally just the painterly brushwork without the bright palette, and from the other members of the Peredvizhniki (The Itinerants), the famous group of 19th century Russian painters whose ranks he eventually joined, and later left (see my post on Ivan Kramskoy).
At his best, Serov’s portraits seem to carry a drama and emotional content sometimes missing from those of his fellow Peredvizhniki and contemporaries like John Singer Sargent and William Merrit Chase (perhaps giving him more in common with the remarkable Cecilia Beaux).
The best source I’ve found on Serov is the official vserov.ru site, which is in Russian as you might expect, but can easily be navigated with the links at the top of the page, and responds well to being interpreted in English using Google Translate.
You can also find a good selection of reasonably large images on this unofficial Russian site (worthwhile, despite the ads). WikiPaintings also has a broad selection, and you can find five high resolution images on the Google Art Project.
In addition to painting in oil, Serov was accomplished in various drawing media, pastel (above, 4th down), graphics and watercolor.
[Via Outdoor Painter]