Nikolai Krymov’s father, Pyotr Alekseevich, graduated from the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he studied under Professor Sergei Konstantinovich Zaryanko. The teacher gave the students a good academic school, knew how to put their hands and eyes, and strong professionals came out of his workshop. The time of study of Peter Alekseevich coincided with the stay at the school of another aspiring painter, Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin, with whom he was friends and even rented a house together at one time. Having received serious professional training, Peter Alekseevich became a portrait painter. He painted portraits of his children, friends, and professors at Moscow University.
He and his wife Maria Yegorovna, a cheerful, beautiful, strong-willed woman, had a large friendly family - twelve children. The life of the house, located near the Patriarch's Ponds, was traditional and measured. The farm was run by Maria Yegorovna, along with the nanny Vasyata, who worked in the family all her life and, having retired, lived out her days here. If this corner of Moscow - a small house with a garden - resembled Vasily Polenov’s paintings “Moscow Courtyard” or “Grandmother’s Garden”, then family life is similar to the description of this time in classical Russian literature: Christmas tree fun, spiritual enlightenment on Easter days, joyful excitement, when on March 9th at the Bird Market and Pipe Square they were released from bird cages.
When the eldest sons, Vasily and Alexei, became students, they, together with friends, arranged musical evenings at home, staged plays, live pictures. We ran to the gallery to the private opera of Savva Ivanovich Mamontov to listen to Fyodor Chaliapin, and to the Maly Theater to watch performances with Maria Ermolova and Olga Sadovskaya.
Pyotr Alekseevich, all his life teaching painting in Moscow gymnasiums, was sensitive to the artistic education of his children. It was he who instilled in them a love of nature, taught to see the world around him figuratively, vividly, to comprehend its material beauty. Noting the youngest son, Nikolai, a craving for drawing (the eldest son, Vasily, as well as his father, was already an artist and teacher), he taught him how to work from life and from memory. It was his father who prepared Nicholas, who had graduated from a real school by that time, to enter his native School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he was accepted second on the list in 1904. At first he studied at the architectural department, and in 1907 he transferred to painting. Among the teachers of Nikolai Krymov, first of all, Valentin Serov, Leonid Pasternak, Nikolai Kasatkin should be mentioned.
As creative individuals, these were completely different masters. Nikolai Alekseevich Kasatkin, a representative of the younger generation of Wanderers, according to contemporaries, was a strict and very demanding teacher.
Versatile educated Leonid Osipovich Pasternak, father of the famous poet Boris Pasternak, a brilliant illustrator of Leo Tolstoy's works, a very gentle man by nature, strove to create an atmosphere of trustful attention of teachers to students at the school. “Our school of painting, sculpture and architecture was the best and, of its kind, the only art school - both in terms of the diversity and freedom of art education and teaching, and in the exceptional composition of outstanding teachers and artists and the lack of treasury, which usually serves as a brake on the work of art development and learning, ”he recalled later.
The most radical transformer of the educational process was Valentin Serov. The tasks that he set for the students were initially alarming. What was his remark in the midst of working on the image of the sitter: “The sitter was set not for a month, but for only three evenings. No backgrounds, no shading. A naked drawing - and nothing more! No sauce, no crumbling. Coal and pencil - that’s all. Tired of drawings like dampers! ”The reform carried out by Serov in teaching drawing and painting also affected sketches. The highest rating now deserved not only compositions successfully executed in oil or watercolors, but also pencil sketches from nature, if one could feel the observing eye in them. Serov highly appreciated the compositional “grip”, or simply “the artistic approach to the technique of drawing,” recalled his student Nikolai Ulyanov.
But Nikolai Krymov considered Isaac Levitan his main teacher. “Personally, I did not know Levitan, since I entered the School of Painting and Sculpture ... when Isaac Ilyich was no longer alive. From the first years of my independent creative life, I was struck in Levitan by his unusually subtle vision, the ability to convey moments of the day and the nature of Russian nature ... The landscapes of Levitan are remarkable in that, with extremely skillful writing and the freedom of his technique, they are surprisingly material, airy and truthful ", - wrote Krymov. The first and very successful pictorial experiments of the young artist showed that a city dweller came to landscape painting, being able to see nature among houses and roofs, to “hear” her secret life in the midst of city noise. At the exhibition of student works, a small sketch “Roofs under the Snow” (1906) was so interested in the school teacher Apollinarii Vasnetsov, the brother of the famous Victor Vasnetsov, that he acquired this work. The absolute "randomness" of the landscape composition reminds a modern viewer of a cinematic frame, and the softness of the color scheme makes us recall the rapidly changing "pictures" of sleep. The student work of the twenty-two-year-old Krymov was also appreciated by other artists, and two years later, by decision of the Council of the Tretyakov Gallery, it was bought for the museum.
Today, in our busy, noisy time, looking at works such as “Sunny Day” (1906), where the mesmerizing silence of a transparent winter day is subtly conveyed, you sincerely regret that you will not meet such a motive in Moscow. On this canvas, as in the painting “By the Spring,” there is a special kind of cosmism, expressed in the exact solution of shadow and light on the walls and roofs of low houses. This game of surfaces illuminated and not illuminated by the sun makes us think of the Sun as a luminary, a giant red-hot ball, whose warmth and light support life on Earth.
Krymov tactfully combines small and large, everyday and great in the painting “Sunny Day”. There is not a single character here (even the birdhouse is empty). But despite the silence captured on the canvas, it seems that a powerful choir sounds, glorifying life in all its manifestations. The harmonious clarity and simplicity of the picture, devoid of details - all together personifies the significance of not being, but being. It is not surprising that the picture was once in the house of such a demanding collector as Vladimir Osipovich Girschman.
The closest friend of Krymov at that time was the artist Nikolai Sapunov, a little later George Yakulov joined them. All three were very different people, but equally funny and witty. After a day of hard work, Krymov and his friends loved to gather with Vsevolod Mamontov, the son of the famous Savva Ivanovich Mamontov. Many artists and architects visited there, sometimes Konstantin Korovin sometimes entertained them all night long with his stories. Nikolai Petrovich was a very gambling man: with friends in the Filippov coffee house they played billiards, went to the races. Once on Tversky Boulevard in the restaurant-pavilion "Greek" this fun company of artists performed pavilion decorations: "Spanish Cabaret" painted by Sapunov, "Caucasian Dukhan" - Yakulov, and "Russian Tavern" - Krymov. Actor Ivan Moskvin portrayed a sex, in teapots served champagne. Since that time, the actor’s friendship with Krymov began, which lasted a lifetime. But, despite all this mischief, Krymov always realized the importance of the role of the artist, who should be a person, to do what he loves, otherwise for him there will be no art, no creativity, no life.
Krymov lived a long, 74-year life, which, it would seem, passed without visible unrest and tragedy. But this, probably, is the special inner strength and mental stability of a person, who, like his generation’s people, fell three wars and three revolutions. Outwardly, his life was not filled with vivid events: he was never abroad, he had no need to travel around the country.
I always remembered trips with Chaliapin to the Volga, but it was more an episode than a rule. Even the Crimea, where he visited in his youth, did not impress him properly. But Ryazan places, Moscow region, Zvenigorod, Tarus gave the artist endless impulses in the work.
A man of very definite views on art, he did not share the theories of the Russian avant-garde of the beginning of the 20th century, finding rather caustic words for their characterization. At the same time, he never flirted with the authorities, did not write alien to him, avoided everything that did not correspond to his idea of the role of the artist in life and in art. For the hot creative youth of the 1930s - Fyodor Reshetnikov, Arkady Ginevsky, Dmitry Domogatsky, Konstantin Dorokhov, George Rublev, Kukryniksy, Alexei Aizeman and others, he was the embodiment of high artistic traditions, which Repin, Serov, Levitan personified for him Korovin. He was always surrounded by young artists: even those who did not study with him were happy to hear the opinion of their works from “Krymov himself”.
Outwardly, Krymov’s life was modest and somewhat “patriarchal”. Forty-two years, since 1916, he lived with his wife, Elena Nikolaevna, the daughter of the artist Dosekin, in a small apartment in Poluektov Lane near Prechistenka. He never had a workshop for work and, when he was in Moscow, and not in the country, he wrote his works by the balcony window in the dining room. All his life he put a new canvas on an easel, which once belonged to Serov and was handed over to Krymov by the widow of Valentin Aleksandrovich. All his life he kept a wooden plaque for painting, a gift from Serov, his teacher at the school, and only a seventy-year-old man painted on it his favorite Tarusian landscape.
He never craved honors and awards - they themselves found him: Krymov was awarded the title of Honored Artist of the RSFSR in 1942 and People's Artist of the RSFSR in 1956. Since 1949, he was a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Arts, and in 1954, in connection with the 70th birthday, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. There was a special connection between the work of Nikolai Petrovich, his works and collectors. Krymov’s paintings were acquired by artists and art lovers. His landscapes were in the collections of prominent Moscow collectors of the early XX century: Alexei Vikulovich Morozov and Ilya Ostroukhov, the famous dressmaker Nadezhda Petrovna Lamanova, and many others. Lydia Brodskaya recalled that she often admired his beautiful works that hung in the collection of her father - the artist Isaac Brodsky. When the personal exhibition of Krymov was first opened at the Tretyakov Gallery in 1922, the works were provided by more than fifty Moscow collectors.
His paintings adorn not only museum collections, but also private homes. Probably, each viewer finds in them something dear to themselves: the organic commensurability of the feelings and experiences of the human soul and the natural world. Although Nikolai Petrovich noticed about himself and his work with his characteristic humor: “I can only write bushes and fences, but I do this best of all.”