Vasily Polenov was one of the remarkable group of Russian painters known as the Peredvizhniki, whose members included such luminaries as Ivan Kramskoy, Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin, Vasily Surikov, Valentin Serov, Alexei Savrasov, Issac Levitan and others (see my article on Painting.Answers.com).
Polenov focused on landscapes and religious scenes. He brought to to both a feeling of contemplative beauty, painted in the kind of direct painterly approach and atmosphere encouraged by plein air painting, and rendered in bright, almost impressionist level color. He was more directly influenced, though, by the Impressionist forerunners of the French Barbizon School.
Polenov’s religious paintings were based on visits to Palestine, and had a degree of realism and immediacy only granted by direct observation.
Polenov taught at the Moscow School of Painting and fellow Peredvizhniki Isaac Levitan and Emily Shanks and Russian Impressionist Konstantin Korovin were among his students. Polenov’s home in Borok has been made into the Polenov Museum.
For more, see this article on Bearded Roman.