I came across the work of Stephan Fedorovich Kolesnikoff (alternately spelled Kolesnikov or Kolesnykov) while poking through some Russian language blogs, and had a “Woah! Who is this?” reaction.
After searching up a bit more of his work, Kolesnikoff immediately went on my list of favorite artists who work in gouache. Though he also did very nice oils, it was his gouache paintings, with their wonderfully delineated trees, shadowed walls, gritty earth, soft fields of snow and colorfully dressed peasants, that grabbed me.
You will alternately see him mentioned as Russian or Serbian, but the best information I can find indicates that Kolesnikoff was born in Ukraine, and after studying there at the Odessa Art School, went on to study at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his instructors included Ilya Repin.
Kolesnikoff lived and painted in Russia for some time, travelled and painted in various parts of Europe, and eventually settled in what was then known as Yugoslavia, in the region now known as Serbia.
Kolesnikoff’s primary subjects were farm workers, their toil in the fields, village life and church celebrations. His scenes were frequently of winter landscapes, in which he found fascinating contrasts of detail and open space, texture and softness.
His trees, figures and buildings were given form with carefully controlled variations in value and subtle nuances of color. Combined with his handling of the medium of opaque watercolor, and the matt areas of color it facilitates, the resulting works are a treat for the eye.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a major single source for Kolesnikoff’s work, a search made more difficult by the fact that he didn’t die until 1955, which leaves his work subject to copyright in most countries. I’ve gathered what I can below.