Alexei Alexeiewitsch Harlamoff was born in Saratov, Russia in 1840. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg where in 1868 he was awarded a gold medal and a travel scholarship. The academy taught and promoted neo-classical techniques and topics. Harlamoff’s earliest works were therefore mainly of religious and military subjects. However, it was at a time when Russian art was undergoing great changes and with the advent of Romanticism a new emphasis was placed on portraits. Moreover, as art began to spread beyond court circles, Russian artists took a renewed interest in the world around them instead of admiring distant civilisations. This change caused a move towards greater naturalism.
Harlamoff took up his scholarship at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he was fortunate to study under the great portrait painter Léon Bonnat. Under Bonnat’s guidance, Harlamoff’s natural talent for portraiture excelled and received attention at the highest levels. In 1888, Queen Victoria expressed great admiration for a portrait exhibited at the Glasgow International Exhibition. Among his sitters and patrons were Tsar Alexander II and Prince Demidoff.
Harlamoff’s paintings are avidly collected for stunning quality and mystical Rembrandtesque backgrounds. He traveled to many different parts of Russia painting portraits of local girls and women. He would capture that particular area through how the sitter looks and the clothes she wore.
Examples of his work can be seen at the Alexander III Museum in St Petersburg and the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow.