Alexander ... and his younger brother Basil was the illegitimate sons of an officer of the Imperial guards of A. P. Elagina, who was able to give both his truncated name. In 1834 the brothers went to St. Petersburg to enter the Academy of arts, but was accepted only senior. He studied in the class of historical painting by K. Briullov, a painter however was not: was released in 1839 with the title of drawing master, and their fates tied to the graphics.
Calling Agina was illustrating contemporary Russian literature, mostly satirical. In the mid-1840s he illustrated the story "Angry man" EP Combs, sketch "columnist of the St. Petersburg" I. I. panayev, the poem "the Landlord" by I. S. Turgenev. This work brought him close to the artist-engraver EE Bernardston that to print perfectly translated his drawings into woodcuts. Together they created the first illustrations for "Dead souls" N. V. Gogol. According to their plan of 100 large and 100 small figures were supposed to accompany the second edition of the poem, but the author suddenly refused to reissue, and had to be restricted to only 100 large illustrations and publish them without text, in separate issues, for 4 figures each. So, in late 1846 and early 1847 were published 72 illustrations (and all 100 - only in 1892). They had a lot of success and still remain the best of all the attempts to illustrate the poem. Their strength and charisma - in vivid types outlined grotesque, but not losing vitality. Social psychological acuity and household characteristics, plastic clarity and integrity of the composition give the images created by the artist, a considerable breadth of generalization and denunciatory effect.
Nothing like Agina to do more was not possible. He was interrupted by small orders for magazines, fell into poverty. In 1853 he moved to Kiev, where he taught drawing in the Cadet corps, and also worked in theatre, prop maker and makeup artist. Then found shelter in Kachanivka - the estate of a rich man, collector and patron G. S. Tarnovsky. There he died.