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Russia • 1871−1955

Biography and information

Anna Ostroumova studied at the Academy of Arts from 1892 to 1895. In November 1900 she was awarded the title of artist for woodcuts. Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva was the daughter of a prominent official Ostroumov (she acquired her second surname in 1905, when she married the famous chemist Lebedev). While studying at the gymnasium, she began attending the elementary school at the Central School of Technical Drawing. Then she studied at the School itself, where she took interest in engraving technique, and at the Academy of Arts, where she studied painting in the studio of Repin. In 1898—1899, she worked in Paris, improving her painting (under J. Whistler) and engraving. 1900 turned out to be a turning point in her life, the artist made her debut with her engravings at the Mir Iskusstva exhibition (she later firmly linked her work with the association), then received the second prize for engravings at the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts competition and graduated from the Academy of Arts with the title of artist, presenting 14 engravings. Ostroumova-Lebedeva played the main role in the revival of easel engraving in Russia as an independent type of art — after a long existence as a reproduction technique. Especially significant was the artist’s contribution to the revival of colour engraving. She worked out the original techniques of generalizing form and colour, mastered and used by many other artists. The main theme of her engravings was Petersburg, she devoted several decades of tireless labour to its imaging.

Her colour and black-and-white prints, both easel ones, combined in cycles (Petersburg, 1908—1910; Pavlovsk, 1922—1923, etc.), and created for the books, V. Y. Kurbatov’s “Petersburg” (1912) and N. P. Antsiferov’s “The Soul of Petersburg” (1920), are still unsurpassed in terms of the sensation accuracy and transmission of the majestic beauty of the city, as well as the rare laconicism of expressive means. Reproduced many times for different reasons, they have long become extremely popular. The works created by the artist based on the impressions of her frequent trips — both abroad (Italy, France, Spain, Holland) and across the USSR (Baku, Crimea) were interesting and uncommon in their own way. Some of them were engraved, some painted in watercolours. A gifted and well-trained painter, Ostroumova-Lebedeva could not work with oil paints, because their smell caused her asthma attacks. But she perfectly mastered the difficult and capricious technique of watercolour painting and used it all her life, creating excellent landscapes and portraits (Portrait of the Artist I. V. Ershov, 1923; Portrait of Andrey Bely, 1924; Portrait of the Artist E. S. Kruglikova, 1925, etc.). Ostroumova-Lebedeva spent the war in besieged Leningrad, not abandoning her beloved work and completing the third volume of her Autobiographical Notes. The last years of the artist’s life were overshadowed by the impending blindness, but she continued to work as long as possible.