Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837 - 1887) was a Russian painter and the art critic. He was the intellectual leader of the Russian democratic art movement 1860-1880.
He was originally from a poor petty-bourgeois family. From 1857 to 1863 he studied at the St.Petersburg Academy of arts; he reacted against academic art, and he was an initiator of the "revolt of fourteen" which ended with an output from the Academy of arts its graduates who organized Artel of artists.
Under the influence of ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats Kramskoi asserted representation about a high public duty of artist, principles of realism, moral substance and a nationality of art. He became one of the main founders and ideologists of Company of mobile art exhibitions (or Peredvizhniki). In 1863-1868 he taught at drawing school of a society of encouragement of applied arts. He created gallery of portraits of the largest Russian writers, scientific, artists and public figures (portraits: Leo Nikolayevitch Tolstoy, 1873, Ivan Shishkin, 1873, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov, 1876, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, 1879, - all in Tretyakov Gallery; portrait of Botkin, 1880 - private collection, Moscow) in which expressive simplicity of a composition, clearness of figure emphasize the leading part of the profound psychological characteristic. Democratic sights of Kramskoi found the brightest expression in portraits of the peasants who reflected sincere riches and internal advantage of the person from people. Central Kramskoi’s painting is "The Christ in desert” (1872, Tretyakov gallery).
Continuing Alexander Ivanov's humanistic tradition, Kramskoi treated a religious plot in moral – philosophical plan. He gave the Christ dramatic experiences deeply psychological vital interpretation, idea of heroic self-sacrifice. Aspiring to expansion ideological-art maintenances of images, Kramskoi created art, worth on the verge of a portrait and a thematic picture ("Nekrasov during the period of "Last songs" ", 1877-78, "Unknown person", 1883, "Inconsolable to mountain", 1884, - all in Tretyakov gallery). They differ by interest to disclosing complex sincere movements, characters and destinies.
A democratic orientation of Kramskoi’s art, his acute critical judgments about the art, and persevering searches of objective public criteria of an estimation of art peculiar to it rendered essential influence on development of democratic art and art idea in Russia in the last third of 19 century.