Bazhenov Vasily Ivanovich
Life time: 1737 - 1799.
In the Russia of the XVIIIth century the architecture was, perhaps, the most prospering kind of art that was especially brightly embodied in Vasily Ivanovich Bazhenov's creativity, though he managed to carry out only insignificantly small part of his grandiose plans.
Moscower. He was born in a family of a poor churchman. As a boy, he was made choirboy in Strastnoy monastery: according to the old tradition he had to follow in father's footsteps. But he liked drawing most of all: "I mentally put saints on walls and made them a part of my composition, they often found me doing this and punished me".
At 15 he himself found a drawing master, a run-down painter, which would draw the left hand or the left leg instead of the right one. He took the boy 'for God's sake', i.e. free of charge, taught him elementary technique. Soon they both found themselves participants of an enormous and urgent state construction - the wooden imperial palace in Lefortovo in the suburbs of Moscow - had completely burned down, and empress Elizabeth, who moved to inconvenient and small building, ordered to build up the palace immediately. And it emerged as in a fairy tale - in nearly a month! Is it at that time that the young painter, who painted furnaces in imitation of marble in the palace that still smelt of tree, started to think of becoming an architect and creating such miracles on his own plan?
At the construction site his abilities were noticed. Prince D.V. Ukhtomsky, the chief Moscow architect, began to charge him with independent work. A year later he was accepted to the Moscow University. Soon Bazhenov was sent to Saint-Petersburg to be trained in "arts". He was introduced to the empress and underwent training in a workshop of architect S.I. Chevakinsky. Bazhenov studied French language, mathematics, diligently redrew in his book classical antique columns with flooring, which was the alphabet of a then architecture. In summer he worked at constructions, which were carried out in Saint-Petersburg by his vigorous teacher.
In France Bazhenov had for the first time seen the new architecture not only in pictures and drawings, which had already been talked about by his academic tutors - Moscower A.F. Kokorinov and Parisian Z.B. Vallen-Delamot: festive and at the same time strict buildings of simple rectilinear outline with uniform, precise lines of elegant columns. This style would later be called classicism. Mild lines and quiet harmony, lying on antique traditions came instead of stormy feelings, embodied in dynamical and complex architecture of baroque. Brilliant architect Charles de Vayi taught principles of the new style to Bazhenov.
It was Italy after it, the native land of magnificent baroque and, what it is more important, the country of ancient ruins, of that original antiquity, which captivated classicists so much. Reaching Paris with difficulty, Bazhenov got stuck there, while the Academy was not going to pay his debts and the way home.
Bazhenov returned to St. Petersburg exactly for the big celebration in honour of a new charter of the Academy of arts. But the Academy offended Bazhenov. A smart uniform was tailored for him, the uniform for which later he was demanded money. Bazhenov was made academician, but not given a long time ago promised professorial post. In addition Bazhenov had to undergo a test - to create a small architectural design for confirmation of the high rank. He executed it beautifully, far exceeding the given modest test requirements. But nevertheless he had to search work for himself.
Bazhenov worked for count Grigory Orlov, the favourite of Catherine II, for Paul, the juvenile successor to the throne, etc. At last, Orlov, the commander of artillery and fortifications, employed Bazhenov and asked for him from the empress, unexpected for the architect, rank of the artillery captain. Together with the patron and all royal court Bazhenov left St. Petersburg and in the beginning of 1767 returned to native Moscow.
There at last he found the work according to his talent and aspirations. He was to reconstruct the Kremlin! It meant preserving esteemed relics, best buildings and clearing away the Kremlin, giving it symmetry and balance, peculiar to classicism. Bazhenov planned direct streets, fanning from the ancient Troitskiye gates, and new squares. Then the plan extended: there appeared the idea of an enormous palace, which would occupy the whole southern part of the Kremlin.
In the Kremlin began the breaking of old buildings, walls and in clouds of pink brick dust unknown views opened. The internal squares of the Kremlin enclosed in the past, were visible even from afar, from the other river coast. However, in the spring of 1771 the work had to be stopped because of epidemic of plague. A festival opened a new stage of the work the following summer - the ground was dug out for foundation pit of the palace, which would be laid a year later in even more solemn atmosphere.
Years passed, but the construction did rise higher than the foundation pit. There was no money. In the spring of 1775 the empress ordered to stop the work. The political circumstances, which had caused the construction, changed.
Offended, Bazhenov refused to supervise earth backing of the foundation pit. Catherine liked festive and unusual constructions. Such she wants to see Tsaritsyno - a manor, which had just been bought near Moscow. Something artificial, old time, conventional, almost toy Middle Age was in the shape of Tsaritsyno. Bazhenov had been building Tsaritsyno for ten years. Here, in contrast to the Kremlin, he did everything himself: was in charge of finance, bought materials in advance, employed workers. He was tired and at 40 felt like an old man. In wet Tsaritsyno children were in poor health, his younger son died...
In summer of 1785 the empress, who had not been to Moscow for ten years, arrived at last. She visited almost the ready manor, familiar to her only from drawings. Beautiful small houses seemed to her small and close - on paper everything looked more impressive. She ordered to reconstruct Tsaritsyno, but from two submitted architectural designs she chose not Bazhenov's one, but made by his former Kremlin assistant architect Kazakov. Some buildings of the manor were broken, on their place there began a construction of a new palace. Other buildings remained unfinished inside, uninhabited. Bazhenov was fired...
Of course, Vasily Ivanovich performed not only royal orders, but about them we, unfortunately, know much less: papers of the architect and majority of his clients have not been preserved. It is known, that in the 1780s Bazhenov built a house for richman P.E. Pashkov. The palace stands in beauty on a high hill in front of the Moscow Kremlin (now this is the old building of the Russian state library).
In 1792 Bazhenov had to move to Saint-Petersburg, he filled a modest post of the architect at Admiralty. In 1796 Catherine II died. Paul, the old patron of Bazhenov, became emperor. In the beginning of 1799 he made the architect another gift: appointed him vice-president of the Academy of arts - to the post, which was created specially for Bazhenov. So as a winner he came back to the Academy, which had rejected him more than 30 years ago.
And vigor came back to the architect! The sixty-year-old vice-president burnt with the desire to renovate the decrepit Academy, to improve the education of young artists, to find talents. But, as it turned out, there was no more time for that. In summer of 1799 Bazhenov was stricken by paralysis, and on August 2 he died. Bazhenov's name is one of the brightest in the Russian architecture due to scope of plans, freedom, force and originality of his creative imagination.