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eng Automatic Translation

Isaac Asknazy

1856 – 1902

Academic artist.

He was committed to the national-historical theme, but sometimes turned to everyday topics. An important part of the mature work of the artist is the Jewish theme. Jewish history and, above all, biblical history. The majestic images of the Tanakh - patriarchs, commanders, kings and prophets - better than anything else, could remind the humiliated people of their heroic past, of the time of their political freedom, awaken their national pride and dignity in the face of their persecutors and oppressors.

Asknazy always remained a believer and was proud of his Jewishness. In orders, he was very picky and never took on work that was unpleasant to him or went against his beliefs. He performed the work himself with rare conscientiousness. Asknazy collected materials for paintings for a long time, worked in museums and libraries, and made countless sketches.

Selected events

Selected artworks

Associated institutions

Associated Documents

Selected dates:

January 16, 1856

Born in the town of Drissa , Polotsk district, Vitebsk province (now Verkhnedvinsk, Vitebsk region6 Republic of Belarus).


He was enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg as a volunteer in painting.


Transferred to the number of students of the Academy . For this, the Academy of Arts demanded a certificate "on his dismissal from the Polotsk Jewish Society" in order to live freely in the capital. The successful completion of the academic course by the young artist has been repeatedly awarded by the Academy . So, for drawings and pictorial sketches made in the natural class in 1874 and 1875, he was awarded two small silver medals, and in 1877 two large silver ones. In 1878 he was awarded a small gold medal. He was a believing Jew who observed all rituals and was proud of his Jewishness. While still a student of the Academy, he petitioned the Council to be allowed to work instead of Saturday on Sundays.


Completed a full course of study at the Academy . The painting "The Whore Before Christ" (1879) brought him a large gold medal and the right to a pensioner's trip abroad to improve at the expense of the treasury, as well as the title of class artist of the 1st degree with the right to the rank of the 10th class upon entering the civil service. All this guaranteed the artist a strong position in society and the security of orders.


Went for four years abroad as a pensioner of the Academy (Berlin and Dresden, Prague and Vienna, Venice, Padua, Florence, Bologna, Rome_). He used every opportunity to broaden his horizons and deepen his education: he studied museum collections, visited the workshops of famous European academic artists.

From a letter to Iseev: "If I had been writing recently from Vienna, I probably would have said a few words of praise about my work, but after visiting the galleries of Venice, of course, I can’t say anything." Having fallen under the influence of the great Venetian colorists, Asknazy begins to pay great attention to the color scheme of sketches and paintings.

"From Vienna I went to Brody (near Lvov) for the summer to paint Jewish types, and on the way I stopped in Krakow. Now I am near my homeland, namely, in Brody, and I am writing sketches and small pictures from the life of emigrants."

It is known that Jews fled through Brody from pogroms in southern Russia, and the artist met there large parties of unfortunate refugees. In Brody, the artist painted Jewish types, sketches and genre paintings of Jewish content. This caused displeasure and a reprimand from the Council of the Academy - a historical painter, during a pensioner's stay abroad, should not be distracted by such topics. Asknazy made excuses - he is collecting material for large paintings on biblical themes.

Upon his return to Russia, Isaac Asknazy presented to His Highness his painting "Moses in the Desert", as the final result of his studies abroad, and was honored to hear from the Grand Duke of gratitude for this work, certifying that the young artist worked conscientiously during his retirement and made great success in the arts.


He received the title of academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts, becoming the first Jewish academician of painting. He continued to work hard, paying tribute not only to his favorite genre of the historical biblical canvas, but also to everyday painting (mainly on plots from the life of Jews), and a portrait. He actively participated in academic exhibitions, joined the "St. Petersburg Society of Artists", which united masters of the academic direction, presented his works at international exhibitions.


An example of the late work of the artist, reflecting the features of modern art with its desire for increased decorativeness, is the painted monumental canvas "Ecclesiastes. (Vanity of vanities and all kinds of vanity)" (Museum of the Academy of Arts), the artist's swan song.
A well-balanced composition, a beautiful drawing, knowledge of the style of the era indicates that the picture was made by the hand of a master.


He became a member of the St. Petersburg Society of Artists , at whose exhibitions he participated.

December 6, 1902

Arriving on business in Moscow, Isaac Asknazy died suddenly. He was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Dorogomilovo (the cemetery appeared in Dorogomilovo in 1788 on the initiative of Belarusian Jews living in Moscow).


A posthumous exhibition of works by Academician Isaac Asknaziy was opened at the Imperial Academy of Arts, where more than 200 of his paintings, drawings and sketches were presented.