Vasily Vereshchagin was a Russian painter and artist, born in the Novgorod Governorate, which is now Nizhniy Novgorod in European Russia, in 1842. He sailed and traveled much of the world, initially with the Sea Cadet Corps of St. Petersburg, but later on expeditions and travels as an artist. He roamed much of Central Asia as well as Siberia, the Himalayas, India and Tibet.
After graduating from the Corps , he left the naval service to pursue education as an artist and painter and studied under Jean-Luc Gerome in Paris.
Vereshchagin had re-enlisted for active service and was present during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), where he lost his brother at the Siege of Pievna. This experience and witness of war drove most of his work when he settled in Munich after it was over.
His The Apotheosis of War, dedicated “to all conquerors, past, present and to come.”, though it is not confirmed, affected German and Austrian officials such that they forbade their soldiers to see it.
Being a member of the Realist movement, most of his life he worked to depict the starkness of life and all that he saw in his painting. Which often turned out to be the horror of war, the weight of life and the struggle of the people as they continue to live.
During his stay in India, he painted “The State Procession of the Prince of Wales into Jaipur in 1876” , also called The Elephant Procession. This work was said to be the third largest painting in the world by The Tribune, India.
During his stay in India he painted numerous portraits of people and various characters ,that he must have found interesting. He also did the “Blowing from Guns in British India” also known as Supression of the Indian Revolt by the British Forces, which depicted the British forces executing a sepoy by tying him to the front of a cannon. This work is alleged to have been bought by the UK and destroyed, as its current whereabouts are unknown.
His brush stroked the sights seen by him, without artistic or stylistic embellishment, as they were. Between 1890 and 1905 he visited the Far East, including Japan, the Philippines and Cuba. His art style was simple, yet serious, forming the very essence of what he painted and nothing more. During the Sino- Japanese war, he was in the east and he did his series of paintings based on Japan, of which the Japanese Priest and Japanese Beggar are part. His visit to Japan was during 1903–1904 and he painted multiple scenes and locations such as temple gates and archways, traditional river boats (called “Wasen”) and nature.
Vereshchagin also did a number of sketches and drawings during his life, which deserve to be noted for their detail, skillful use of light and a keen realism.
Vasily Vasiliyevich Vereshchagin met his demise aboard the ship Petropavlovsk commanded by Admiral Makaroff, which sank on 13th April, 1904 after hitting two underwater mines on its way back to Port Arthur. The news of his death was published in an article titled “War Lasted 18 Months: Biggest Battle Known” in the New York Times on 30th August, 1905.