Paul Svinin

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Paul Svinin nineteenth century Russian diplomat, writer and amateur painter
Mankamyer, Martha
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x, 100 leaves : illustrations ; 1990


bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 96-97).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Humanities, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Martha Mankamyer.

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Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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LD1190.L58 1990m .M36 ( lcc )

Full Text
Martha Mankamyer
B.A., University of Colorado, 1956
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
Humanities Program

This thesis for Master of Humanities degree by
Martha Mankamyer
has been approved for the
Humanities Program
Charles Moone

Mankamyer, Martha (M.H., Humanities)
Paul Svinin, Nineteenth Century Russian Diplomat, Writer and
Amateur Painter
Thesis directed by Professor Mary Conroy
Although Paul Svinin is an unknown name in political, literary and
artistic circles, he helped shape Russian-American trade and diplomatic
relations in the early nineteenth century and his visual and written
observations influenced Russias perception of early America and helped
develop and strengthen friendly relations between the two countries. Svinin
was also representative of the talented amateur watercolorist at a time when
watercolor was becoming a popular medium for both amateurs and
The opening chapter of this thesis covers Svinins early life and his
rediscovery, through his paintings, 100 years after his death. A second
chapter discusses Svinins attendance at the Imperial Academy of Fine Art in
St. Petersburg, with background on the introduction of western-style painting
in Russia, the Academy and its influence in nineteenth century art, and
Academy-trained artists. The third chapter is devoted to watercolor
painting; the reasons for its rise in popularity and how the medium came to
Russia, topographic landscape painters, and the importance of amateurs like
Svinin in the history of watercolor. The next two chapters are devoted to
Svinin and his time as a diplomat in the newly independent United States,
from 1811-1813, and cover early Russian/American and diplomatic and trade
relations. These chapters discuss Svinins impressions of America, as

reflected in his art and writing. The final three chapters document Svinins
travels, his return to Russia and a decade of writing and editing his own
magazine. The epilogue contains translations of some letters, printed here
for the first time, written by Svinin to friends, that shed some light on his
gradual fade into obscurity.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its
Faculty member in charge of thesis

I. INTRODUCTION...................................1
Early Promise................................2
II. THE ACADEMY YEARS.............................5
Western-style Painting Comes to Russia.......5
The Academy Influence........................9
The Establishment Painters..................10
III. THE ROMANCE OF WATERCOLOR...................18
The Rise of Watercolor......................20
Watercolor Comes to Russia..................21
Topographical Watercolorists................22
Amateur Watercolorists......................27

The Writer Emerges..............................35
Strengthening The Ties..........................36
Early Diplomatic Relations......................37
Russian-American Trade Relations................38
V. THE AMERICAN YEARS................................45
Sketches of Russia..............................45
Impressions of America..........................48
American Inventiveness..........................51
Svinin The Artist...............................56
VI. RETURN TO RUSSIA..................................70
London Revisited................................71
A Traveler in His Own Country...................74
VII. THE MAGAZINE EDITOR..............................77
Art in America..................................78
The Final Years.................................83
VIII. EPILOGUE........................................89

1. Paul Petrovitch Svinin by Vasili Tropinin.............x
1. Peasant Girl by Ivan Agunov; Portrait by A. Antopov...7
2. Portrait of Marie Therese LeMoyne by Louis Toque......7
3. Two Wanderers in the Campagna by Claude Lorrain.......8
4. The Last Days of Pompeii by Karl Bruillov.............12
5. A Woman Riding a Donkey by Karl Bruillov..............12
6. Josephs Dream by Alexander Ivanov....................13
7. Abraham and Seraphim by Alexander Ivanov..............13
8. Angel Strikes Zachery by Alexander Ivanov.............13
9. Portrait of Vasilyev by V.L. Borovikovsky.............14
1. View of the Place DHenry Quartre by J.S. Campions....23
2. Fountains in the Garden of Peterhof (unknown).........23
3. Mikhailovsky Castle by Feodor Alekseyev...............24
4. Palace at Gatchina by Simon Shchedrin.................24
5. Moscow University by Paul Svinin......................26
6. The Pennsylvania Hospital by Paul Svinin..............26
7. Self-Portrait by Mikhail Lermontov....................29

8. The Cossack Fedyushkin by Prince Gargarin............29
9. The Battle at Valerik by Mikhail Lermontov...........29
CHAPTER V By Paul Svinin
1. Deck Life on the Paragon............................52
2. Trenton Diligence....................................52
3. A Ferryride on the Susquehanna.......................53
4. Mohawk of Albany.....................................53
5. Merrymaking at a Wayside Inn.........................57
6. Negro Methodists Holding a Religious Meeting.........58
7. A Philadelphia Anabaptist Submersion.................58
8. Sunday Morning in Front of the Metting House.........59
9. A Negro Group in front of the Bank of Pennsylvania...61
10. Night Life in Philadelphia..........................61
11. City Troup..........................................61
12. Indian Tribal Ceremonies............................62
13. Chief of the Little Osages..........................62
14. Niagara Falls Table Rock by Moonlight...............64
15. Natural Bridge, Virginia............................64
16. The Tornado.........................................65
17. Town Along the Mohawk River.........................65
18. Washingtons Tomb...................................66

The following people provided resources that enabled me to write this thesis.
Bob Ballard, photographer, Denver, Colorado
The British Museum, London, England
Valery Cossaque, translator, Denver, Colorado
Marshall Davidson, writer, New York, N. Y.
The Lenin Library, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.
Sheryl Liebold, Pennsylvania Academy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mina Litinsky, The Sloane Gallery, Denver, Colorado
Lev Luminago, artist, Denver, Colorado
John Mersereau, Jr., Slavonic Dept., Univ. of Mich, at Ann Arbor
New York Public Library Slavonic Dept., N. Y.
Marc Pachter, National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.
Marianne Promos, Free Library of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Russian Embassy, Washington D.C.
Steve Savageau, The Savageau Gallery, Denver, Colorado
Boris Shoshensky, artist/photographer, Denver, Colorado
Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.
State History Museum, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.
Dr. Roman Szporluk, Russian Studies, Univ. of Mich, at Ann Arbor
With special thanks for her encouragement to Dr. Mary Conroy of the
History Department at the University of Colorado at Denver.

1. Pavel Petrovich Svinin. An engraving by D. Koch from
a watercolor portrait by Vasili Andreyevich Tropinin,
painted some years after Svinins return to Russia from

While traveling in Russia in the winter of 1923-4, Dr. Avraham
Yarmolinsky, then head of the Slavonic Department of the New York Public
Library, stumbled upon a book entitled Voyage Pittoresque aux Etats Unis de
IAmerique (Picturesque Voyage to the United States of America) by Paul
Svignine (Anglicized as Svinin). Published in St. Petersburg in 1815,1 it
contained six watercolor illustrations by the author. About the same time
Mr. R.E.T. Halsey, a collector of early American Art and a trustee of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, acquired a large leather-bound portfolio of 52
original watercolors by Paul Svinin painted during the time he spent in the
United States, from 1811 to 1813. There was no information about the artist.
An American Red Cross worker, working in Russia in the aftermath of the
revolution, brought the portfolio to the United States. It subsequently was
sold to Halsey for his collection. Eventually Halsey and Yarmolinsky met
and, after combining their research, pieced together Svinins story. Dr.
Yarmolinsky published a book about Svinin in 1930, entitled Picturesque
United States of America, containing reproductions of the American
watercolors and English translations of some of Svinins writings about

Although engravings from original watercolors illustrate his other
writings, most of Svinins original work has disappeared, except these 52
American watercolors.
Early Promise
Pavel Petrovich Svinin was born June 8,17872, the son of Petr
Sergevich Svinin (1734-1813), a lieutenant-general in the army and later a
senator. His ancestors came to Russia in the fifteenth century from
Lithuania. Although the family was listed in the Book of Nobility they were
not one of the highest noble families of Russia. The Svinins were of the
lesser nobility, a "service" family, making their mark in the military and the
civil services.3
Because his family was prominent, Svinin received one of the finest
educations Russia had to offer at that time. He attended the Moscow
Boarding School for the Nobility (Blagorodnyi Pansion),4 where the arts
were a strong part of the curriculum. The Pansion followed the then usual
practice of permitting students to develop interests along the lines of their
inclinations and talents. It was here that Svinin developed his lifelong love of
art and literature.
Svinin did very well at the Pansion, graduating with honors and
ambitions of a career in the civil service. In 1805, before entering The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Svinin began taking painting classes at The
Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. After a year at the
Academy he began his diplomatic career, resuming Academy studies in
between assignments. In 1811, just before sailing for an assignment in North
America, he was elected to membership in the Academy. Svinin never

studied art beyond his brief sojourn at the Academy, but his work indicates
that he might have done well as a professional artist. His drawings and
paintings illustrated the many books and articles he wrote throughout his
diplomatic career.
Paul Svinin is representative of the talented amateur at a time when
amateur painting was on the rise with watercolor becoming the popular
medium for amateurs and professionals alike. But his contributions went
beyond the field of art. As a diplomat he helped shape Russian-American
trade and diplomatic relations. As an artist and writer his visual and written
observations influenced Russias perception of the early United States and
were a factor in strengthening and developing friendly Russian-American
relations. Later historians drew upon these materials in writing about the
early 1800s.
"The research value of Svinins book, the richness of its factual
content, and number of interesting generalizations and conclusions
concerning the uniqueness of American historical development continues
down to the present," writes one Russian historian.6
Although there had been a few pamphlets circulating in Russia
about the American revolution, Svinins Pittoresque Voyage was the first real
travel book written by a Russian about the United States.

Davidson, Marshall B., "Voyage Pittoresque aux Etats Unis de
lAmerique," American Heritage Magazine (February 1964), p. 52. Date
refers to first printing. There was a second printing in 1818.)
2Abroad in America: Visitors to a New Nation. 1776-1914. edited by
Marc Pachter and Frances Wein (Washington D.C.: Addison-Wesley
Publishing Company in association with the National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, 1976), p.14. Some sources give 1788 as the year of
his birth.
3White, D. Fedotoff. "A Russian Sketches Philadelphia, 1811-1813,"
Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography. (Jan. 1951), p.5. Peter the
Great instituted a senate to govern while he was out of his new capital, St.
Petersburg. The senate had administrative and judicial functions.)
4Ibid., p.6. This was a prep school to prepare young men for
Moscow University. In those days universities were for members of the lesser
nobility-sons of civil servants, doctors and other professionals.
5Bolkhovitinov, Nikolai N., The Beginnings of Russian-American
Relations (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1975), p.382.

Svinin was fortunate to receive his art training at The Imperial
Academy of Fine Art in St. Petersburg. By the nineteenth century the
Academy reflected Western influences on Russian culture. Although Svinin
only spent three years there, his later work in America would show the
results of the strong Academy training in drawing and the French, English
and German artists who came to teach there.
Western-style Painting Comes to Russia
Prior to the seventeenth century, formal art in Russia was mainly
religious, the chief form being icon paintings.1 Peter the Great inaugurated
western-style painting in Russia.
In the early eighteenth century, Peter imported many talented
foreign artists, primarily architects such as the famous German Andreas
Schluter and Jean-Baptiste LeBlond from France, to build his new city of St.
Petersburg. Accompanying LeBlond was the prominent portrait painter,
Louis Caravacque. These artists and architects not only helped create the
city of St Petersburg, but trained native artists as well.
Foreign artists were attracted to Russia by the lavish royal patronage
offered and a fascination with this still medieval country, which the Tsar was

determined to bring into the modern world. Continuing to import foreign
artists became an expensive burden, so Peter, desiring to create a local
tradition in art, began sponsoring education for Russian artists in Italy,
France and Holland.
Peters preference for Western art, especially fine draughtmanship,
led him to establish a school of drawing at the St. Petersburg Printing House
in 1718. In 1726, Peters widow, Catherine I, created a Department of Art
within the Academy of Sciences.2 In this early period, with the bulk of the
work consisting of portraits, artistic efforts were unsophisticated and not of
highest quality. Though architecture flourished, native painters had difficulty
adjusting to Western style secular art because of a dependence on religious
art and their training as icon painters.3 It remained for the next generation
to become more accomplished painters.
While Peter welcomed all foreigners with valuable skills, his
daughter, Elisabeth, preferred French artists and architects like
Bartolommeo Rastrelli, Italian-born but Paris-trained. During her reign,
1741-1762, a new period of luxury began for Russian art. It has been said
that from an artistic standpoint, Elisabeth was to Russia what Louis XIV was
to France.4
Empress Elizabeth established the Imperial Academy in 1757. Early
teachers invited during Elisabeths reign were French artists like Claude
Lorrain5 and Louis Tocque.
Tocque, 1696-1772, son of a portrait painter, studied under French
artists Bertin and Nattier. Bouchard and Fragonard were his
contemporaries. He often worked in watercolor, painting court portraits in
St. Petersburg from 1756-58.6 His work was an important influence on
Russian portrait painters of the time, especially Dimitry Levitsky, 1775-1822,

1. (left) This oil portrait of a peasant girl by Ivan Argunov, 1784, is the first
painting by an artist fully trained in Western-style painting, (right) Portrait of
Ataman Krasnoshchekhov by Alexis Antopov, 1761, oil. Both artists were
proteges of Tsar Peter. 2
2. Louis Tocque (1696-1772) Portrait of Marie Therese
LeMovne (about 1750). Black chalk on tan paper.
Frenchman Tocque was court painter in St. Petersburg
from 1756-58. His paintings were an important influence
on Russian portraits painters of the time.

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3. Claude Lorrain, nee Claude Gelee, (1600-1682), Two Wanderers in the
Campagna. about 1650. Watercolor. Lorrain, a great classic French landscape
painter, went to Russia to paint and instruct at the invitation of Empress
Elizabeth. His landscape style became the ideal for the 18th and 19th centuries.

the leading portrait painter during the reign of Catherine II (Catherine the
Great). Tocque was an excellent draughtsman who tried to paint portraits
that revealed the persons true nature rather than just flattering his subjects,
This quality in his work set the tone for the next generation of portrait
The Academy Influence
The Academy became a teaching establishment in 1763 under
Catherine II. As Academys protectress, her preference for things French
brought a reverence to French culture that lasted from 1770 through the
Napoleonic years.7 Under Catherines influence the gay rococo style of the
eighteenth century gave way to the tunics and columns of classicism. The
center of artistic taste shifted from the court to the Academy. Rigid and
strict artistic schooling was adopted, rejecting any new movement that
deviated from classicism.
There were no alternatives to the Academy. Although independent
studios existed they followed the Academy teachings and were considered
only supplementary training to it. The Academy controlled the artistic
climate and the development of the arts until the second half of the 19th
century, when artists made an effort to free art from Academy restrictions.
From 1770 until Alexander I became Tsar in 1801, Russian culture
was patterned after France. There was no strong nationalistic spirit in
Russian art at this time, for the aristocracy was trying to be more Western
than Russian. While religious art had confined itself to repetition of forms
from earlier centuries, secular art followed the dictates of Paris and Berlin.

The French revolution and subsequent war with France, followed by
Napoleons invasion of Russia in 1812, broke the spell that eighteenth
century France had over the Russian upper class. The political unrest
resulting from Napoleons invasion brought a new awareness of things
Russian. For the first time there was an interest in the colorfulness and
picturesqueness of folk life. This interest brought about a period of realistic
painting that provided an alternative to the more formal Academy style.
Soon a genre painting class (called the "class of domestic exercise") was
established at the Academy.8
The Establishment Painters
Like Svinin, most Russian artists of the early nineteenth century
were Academy-trained. Among his contemporaries at the Academy were
Karl Bruillov (1799-1852) and Fedor A. Bruni (1799-1875) who enrolled in
1809, Alexander Ivanov (1806-1858) in 1817, Orest Kiprensky (1782-1836) in
1788, Silvestr Shchedrin (1791-1830) in 1800, and Vasilii Tropinin (1776-
1857) who became an auditor in 1798 These artists worked both in oil and
watercolor, but often their watercolors and drawings were superior to their
oil paintings.9
An early and influential contributor to the formal style of Russian
portrait painting was an Austrian, J.B. Lampi, 1751-1830,10 who became
court painter to Catherine II. Lampi helped to launch the later careers of
two great Ukrainian portrait painters, Levitsky, mentioned earlier, and V.L.
Borovikovsky, 1757-1825. Both painters preferred to paint the more
attractive parts of Russian court life and avoided the coarse and nasty
aspects which might offend the public.

Two Russian artists, both Academy-trained, gained international
reputations in their lifetime. Both Karl Bruillov and Alexander Ivanov
studied in Italy and produced epic paintings that made them famous, but are
appreciated more today for their portrait and figure work. Both were
accomplished technicians, as well as sensitive artists. This is especially true
of Ivanov, though at the time, it was Bruillov who met with the greater
international success.
Karl Bruillov, 1799-1852, often called the Russian Delacroix (after
the great romantic artist of the French Revolution)-11 combined classicism
and romanticism in his paintings. The son of a skilled wood carver, Bruillov
was the most versatile and popular Russian artist of his day. Although
primarily an oil painter, todays art historians consider Bruillovs watercolor
studies and sketches for his most famous oil painting,"The Last Days of
Pompeii," to be a better reflection of his talent. It was from this painting that
Briullov gained his international reputation as a romantic historical painter.
The star pupil at the Imperial Academy, Bruillov became an important
influence on 19th century academic art but his adherence to Academy
traditions kept him from being a completely romantic artist.
Alexander Ivanov, 1806-1858,12 was a painter who managed to
combine classicism, romanticism and realism in one epic painting. Ivanov
was an apprentice at the Academy. A devout romantic artist with mystical
nature and inner vision, Ivanov devoted much of his time to religious
subjects. He was also a credible landscape painter and one of the first to
work in English artist John Constables "plein air" (painting outdoors)
technique. Ivanovs real legacy to Russian art was his fascination with light
and reflected light well before the French impressionists.

4. (top) Karl Bruillov (1799-1852). The Last Days of Pompeii, from 1830-1833,
the oil painting that made him famous.
5. (below) Karl Bruillov. A Woman Riding a Donkey, watercolor, 1835, is a good
example of Bruillovs genre style.

6. through 8. Alexander Ivanovs watercolor sketches for
his religious masterpiece "The Appearance of the Messiah
before the People," all done about 1850.
6. Josephs Dream. 7. Abraham and Seraphim, and 8.
Angel strikes Zachary.

9. V. L. Borovikovsky, (1757-1825. Portrait of Vasilyev,
about 1800, watercolor and gouache. Sometimes called
body-color, gouache is transparent watercolor with white
chalk added for opaqueness. Borovikovsky was court
painter to Catherine II.

Ivanov went to Italy to study in 1831. There he started to paint his
monumental work "The Appearance of the Messiah Before the People."
Ivanov made some 200-400 watercolor and pencil sketches for this
painting,13 which he worked on intermittently for 20 years. Today, these
sketches are considered far superior to the final painting, which seems to be
cold and lifeless. When"Messiah" was finished and exhibited at the Academy
in 1858, it was only moderately successful. Soon afterwards Ivanov died in
disappointment over the lukewarm reception of his masterpiece.
Svinin received the same training at the Academy as these important
artists. The popular historical themes were reflected in his work. He was
elected to membership to the Academy in 1811 after submitting a painting
depicting Russian hero Field Marshal Suvorov "resting, after a battle, on
straw, by a stream, in a tent made of cloaks fastened to Cossacks spears, with
a military camp and groups of horses, Cossacks, soldiers and Turkish
prisoners filling the background as morning breaks and the dawn begins to
gild nature.14

ilcon paintings were usually painted on wood with egg tempera, a
water-based paint using egg yolk as the emulsion.
zTalbot-Rice, Tamara. A Concise History of Russian Art (New
York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher, 1963), p.213.
3Hamilton, George Heard, The Art and Architecture of Russia
(New York: The Pelican History of Art, Penguin Books, 1954) p. 256-7.
4Benois, Alexandre, The Russian School of Painting (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1916) p.26.
5Claude Lorrain, 1600-1682, is considered the first great landscape
painter. His landscapes, based on natural forms and natural light, had a
strong impact in the 18th and 19th centuries, first on romanticism and later
on impressionism.
6Mayoux, Jean-Jacques, English Painting, from Hogarth to the Pre-
Raphaelites (New York: SKIRA, St. Martins Press, 1972), p.109.
7Although Catherine did not like France she loved the French
language and not only used it in her private correspondence but made it the
language of her court. Russian society promptly followed her example and
soon everything French was fashionable. The acquisition of French culture
became a status symbol. Catherine became disenchanted with the French
during the French revolution, however, and banned French goods by 1795.
8Benois, p.114.
^tavrou, Theofanis George, Art and Culture in Nineteenth Century
Russia (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1983), p.116.
10Hare, Richard, The Art and Artists of Russia (Greenwich,
Connecticut: New York Graphic Society, 1966), p.117. Portraits were the
most popular form of art in the early eighteenth century, largely recording
the changing styles. People were depicted in western dress and hairstyles
and no longer resembled native Russians.
nBrion, Marcel, Romantic Art (New York and London: McGraw-
Hill Book Company, Inc., and Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1960), p.192.
12Ivanovs was Andrey Ivanov, Bruillovs teacher at the Academy.
13Stavrou, p.128. Ivanov was inspired by English artist William
Blake (1757-1827), and had Blakes visionary imagination. These
preliminary studies for Messiah reveal that he had the ability to be a better
artist than Bruillov, had he allowed his imagination to run free like Blake.
Blake influenced many Russian religious painters. He work was inspired by
the supernatural and the fantastic. He drew from visions inside his head, with
subjects from the Bible, from history or from fairy tales; subjects that

appealed to Russians. He worked often in watercolor because the
transparency of the medium allowed him to show in his figures the light of
the spirit within the body. He often draped his figures in iridescent veils to
convey such mystical meanings.
14Davidson, Marshall B., "Voyage Pittoresque aux Etats Unis de
lAmerique par Paul Svignine," (American Heritage Magazine. February,
1964) p. 50. Reference material about the Academy indicates that two
excellent art teachers interested in historical themes, Ivan Akimov and
Gregory Ugriumov, had a great deal of influence on the students at the
Academy like Bruni, Bruillov, and others. A general conclusion could be
drawn that Svinin was similarly influenced.

About 1750, art was making the shift from classicism to romanticism.
"Back to nature" was the theme of this new movement. Artists tried to break
away from classicism to portray a simple, pastoral life or the exotic fantasies
of far away places and violent and awe-inspiring scenery. While classicists
viewed man as master of his environment, the romanticist saw man as its
victim.1 Romanticism further developed to include the mystical, the Gothic
and the occult and by the nineteenth century this dark side of human nature
became evident both in literature and art.2
Historically, the Age of Romanticism was a period of violent change
and revolution. Men revolted against "The Enlightenment," when it was
believed the truth of mans nature could be discovered by the use of reason.
Romanticism also countered Englands industrial revolution, a time of
important economic developments, new inventions, improved agriculture,
growth of cities and the rise of a new merchant middle class. The industrial
revolution also brought undesirable elements like pollution and urban
ugliness. Lastly, the romantic age coincided with the French Revolution
when Napoleon stamped his image on the era as the true romantic
individualist, proving that man could rise on his own merits from obscurity to

Svinin was a romanticist in his writing and his art. He was swept
away by nature-with the grand, awe-inspiring landscape and the simple
pastoral scene-as shown in his later Hogarth-like genre paintings of
America. He also was seeing the world at a time when Napoleon dominated
the scene and romanticism was more than just an artistic style. It became a
rebellion against the conformity of the eighteenth century.
Romanticism drew to a close about 1850. The great communion
with nature was over, replaced by a group called the Pre-raphaelites, who,
although romantics, found inspiration in another period and another
country-Renaissance Italy.
The romantic movement in Russia was short-lived and Russian
romantic painting was much less significant than its romantic literature.
Romanticisms impact in Russian art was much softer, more integrated into
the enlightenment than in England. While English artists were returning to
their native land for inspiration, Russian artists were studying painting in
Italy and were still being influenced by classic Italian landscape. By the first
half of the nineteenth century Italy was preferred among academic circles as
the place for artists and young noblemen on the Grand Tour to study art and
acquire a classical past. Light was the key to this kind of painting in which
art became involved with nature rather than a projection of human intellect.3
The brilliant Italian light had a lasting influence on Russian establishment
painters like Shchedrin, Kiprensky, Bruillov and Ivanov, proving that they
were as capable of luminous vision as other European artists.

The Rise of Watercolor
The romantic artist often used watercolors (or colored drawings) to
solve specific problems in his oil paintings. Watercolor, with its freshness
and spontaneity, allowed the romanticists imagination to soar. The classical
artist on the other hand, used watercolors and drawings as formal exercises
and a way to control his artistic imagination.
Until the eighteenth century watercolor was usually used to make
preliminary studies for oil paintings. By the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth century, great technical advances were made in paint and
papermaking which contributed to the rise in popularity of watercolor
painting. These improvements made watercolor portable, freeing the
professional from his studio and encouraging the amateur to paint.
One important technical change that made the medium practical
was the invention of drycake colors. Now the artist could fit colors into
boxes that were easily transported on the travels that were characteristic of
the romantic age, absolutely essential for the artist, and gentlemen taking the
"grand tour" as part of their education.
Moist cake colors developed about 1830 in France, were improved
by the British and in 1843 the English company of Windsor and Newton (still
making fine quality paints) began packing paint in tubes.4
Another technical improvement occurred in papermaking. Until the
late eighteenth century, following ancient methods, an artist made his own
"laid" paper, which left lines in the paper fibers from the brass wires of the
paper mold. He had to stretch and size the paper because unsized or
"waterleaf' paper would not take watercolor washes.5 The development of
woven paper by the English printmaker, James Whatman, (still making

excellent paper today), contributed greatly to the development and
popularity of watercolor painting.
Watercolorists were quick to see the advantages in Whatmans
handmade "wove" paper. It could be stretched flat and did not have the
furrows left in the paper fibers by the wires of the paper mold. By the mid-
nineteenth century Whatman was making cold press (smooth), hot press and
rough surface paper. He perfected a sizing material which allowed the artist
to experiment with such techniques as sponging out, washing, taking out
highlights by scrubbing or scratching with a knife, and other special effects.
Like Svinin, artists were drawn to watercolor because of the greater
availability of paint and paper. The lightness, compactness and portability
and cheapness of the materials and the fact that execution of a watercolor
took much less time than an oil, contributed greatly to its popularity. It
became a popular medium to use in expressing the romantic spirit.
In England transparent watercolor painting gained such popularity
that the English imagined it was their creation.6 This was not so. The
English were just the first to realize how well the medium, with its portability,
spontaneity, immediacy and freshness of execution, is suited to landscape
painting, a subject they excelled in. These qualities made possible the rise of
the topographic artist who painted detailed physical representations of a
region, much like a photographer.
Watercolor Comes to Russia
The inevitable tie between watercolor painting and printmaking
came through the introduction of the aquatint. Aquatint is a process by

which spaces rather than lines are etched with acid, producing an effect that
suggests the delicate wash qualities of watercolor.
Prior to this there had only been linear printmaking techniques like
engraving and etching, which could not give the feeling of watercolor washes.
Thus, aquatint was often used to reproduce many of the works of eighteenth
century watercolorists.
Russia became familiar with watercolor through the introduction of
aquatint. Although it had been in limited use in the early seventeenth
century, French artist J.B. LePrince (1734-1781) fully developed aquatint in
1768-9.7 It fast rose in popularity in Russia and by the end of the eighteenth
century was used increasingly in book illustration. This, along with the
increase in lithography and engraving, helped expand the popularity of
watercolor especially among artists like Svinins contemporary P.I. Orlowski,
1777-1832. Orlowski was actually Polish, but spent most of his life in Russia
as a court painter. He worked extensively in watercolor and pastel and
became the first artist in Russia to experiment with lithography.8
Prints from great English and French watercolorists became more
than just illustrations or watercolor reproductions. Prints became a means of
artistic instruction for the Russian artist who was not able to travel to
England, Italy or France to study art.
Topographical Watercolorists
Not all early Russian landscape painters studied in Italy, though
most were influenced by the luminosity of classical Italian paintings. Many
began as topographical painters, painting detailed physical representations
of a region, much like a photographer. Artists recorded the appearance of a

1. J.S. Campions (French, no dates) View of the Place DHenrv Quartre. about
1800s, colored engraving. A good example of a colored engraving, an art which
came to Russia at this time. Color engravings, which appeared in Italy in the late
15th and early 16th century, were used to popularize the works of the great Italian
masters In the 18th century the colored copper engraving entered a new phase
when Leblon (French) invented first the 3-color and then the 4-color print.
2. An early 19th century Russian watercolor, Fountains in the Garden of
Peterhof. Artist unknown, is a good example of a topographical landscape.

3. (above) Feodor Alekseyev (1753-1824) View of Mikhailovsky Castle in St.
Petersburg. 1797, watercolor and pen. At his best when depicting the palaces of
St. Petersburg, he conveyed the northern light with subtlety.
4. (below) Simon Shchedrin (1745-1804) Palace at Gatchina, (no date, probably
about 1800) Gouache. Considered by some to be the founder of Russian School
of Landscape, he began as a topographer.

particular town or country house site in as accurate a line drawing as
possible. Great precision was called for and some tinting was permissible.
An element of self-expression in both color and style on the part of the artist
eventually crept into the work, turning these "view painters"9 into romantic
landscape artists, with watercolor as the preferred medium.
Russian landscape paintings were also full of the symbols of
romanticism-typically with massive foliage against a clear blue sky, a few
golden tinted clouds at orderly intervals, rocks with overhanging trees on one
side of the picture, stretches of green with a little pastoral scene, the
inevitable rainbow and the barest suggestion of distant hills.
Many of Svinins contemporaries began their painting careers as
topographic artists. Maxim Vorobiev, 1787-1855, who started as a
topographer, was one of the best native artists of his time, although unknown
outside of Russia. Vorobievs watercolors were modest but executed with a
great deal of taste and a hint of Claude Lorrains serene beauty. He did not,
like so many other Russian painters, transfer his memories of foreign lands
to his landscapes, so his work becomes important as an indication of a rising
nationalism in Russian art. Vorobiev was known for his melancholy
moonlight views of St. Petersburg during the white nights.
Topographical landscape painters who aimed more at mood and
striking effects (called "pittoresque" by the French) were Feodor Matvyeyev,
1758-1826, who specialized in classic views, and Alexander Bruillov, 1800-
1877,10 a fine architect who excelled in watercolor portraiture and
landscapes of St. Petersburg. Matvyeyev was one of the first Russians
painters studying landscape painting in Italy to try and free himself from
academic art.

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5. Paul Svinin (1787-1839). Moscow University, watercolor, (date unknown)
from his book Sketches of Moscow and St.Petersburg. A good example of Svinins
topographical training.

6. Paul Svinin (1787-1839) The Pennsylvania Hospital.
Philadelphia. Pennsylvania, watercolor, 1811, from his American
sketchbook. Trees have softened this topographic painting, as it
becomes more of a landscape.

Another early landscape painter, well-known for technical
proficiency, was Feodor Alexeyev, 1753-1824. His finest works were
watercolors of St. Petersburg. Alexeyev, like Vorobiev, could convey the
northern light in St. Petersburg with great subtlety.
Simon Shchedrin, 1745-1804, began as a topographical painter. It
was in Italy that he learned to paint objects with light radiating behind them,
a technique he would put to good use in his native land. Shchedrin would
use light to produce striking effects in his best works of the Gatchina Palace
and the Pavlovsky Fortress.
Mikhail Ivanov, 1748-1823, who painted views of Tsarskoye Selo and
other palaces, revealed an almost "English" knowledge of the intricate
technique of watercolor.11 He drew figures very well and mastered the
Western concept of perspective, something that was difficult for early
Russian artists.
In reviewing Svinins work, it seems likely that he had some training
as a topographical artist. While his landscapes are generalized and loosely
painted, his drawings of buildings often resemble architectural drawings in
their linear precision. His book, Sketches of Moscow and St. Petersburg, was
illustrated with nine colored engravings (from original watercolors) of
important buildings and monuments. Although somewhat lifeless, the
drawings show great accuracy in rendering.12
Amateur Watercolorists
Svinin, although an amateur, was a talented watercolorist. Amateurs
have always played an important role in the evolution of watercolor painting.
The amateur watercolorist emerged as a result of technological changes in

paints and paper and the dissemination of illustration through lithography
and aquatint. The growing number of professional watercolor artists for
amateurs to copy also contributed to watercolors popularity.
At the same time Russians were traveling to Italy on the Grand
Tour, professional English artists were discovering the joys of watercolor. By
the middle of the eighteenth century, watercolor had become the favorite
technique of most of the English artists, and England entered into a "Golden
Age of Watercolor" that was to last a little over 100 years13
Quick execution, combined with a luminosity created by the white
paper shining through the transparent paint, gives watercolor its look of
freshness and spontaneity. It was these qualities that drew English landscape
artists to the medium.
It was not until the latter half of the eighteenth century that drawing
became generally fashionable and the word amateur was widely used in this
context.14 In England amateur sketcher and sometime painter William
Gilpin, inspired by the elegiac poets,15 traveled to Wales and Englands lake
district to paint, using watercolor because of its greater portability. Gilpins
lake district watercolors and his subsequent book on painting the English
countryside (Observations on the Lakes, 1786) began the great painting tours
through rural England by both professional artists and enthusiastic
amateurs.16 Amateurs often traveled to places professional artists did not
go. This was particularly true in England, when Englishmen could travel all
over the world and still be within the British Empire.
Amateur work was sometimes re-interpreted by professional artists
as watercolors or prints to be sold to the public. Many of these English
watercolors and prints made their way to Russia to be copied by amateurs
like Svinin.

7. (left) Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841) Self-Portrait, watercolor, 1837. He
illustrated his poetry with his own romantic watercolors. 8. (right) Prince
Gargarin (1810-1895) The Cossack Fedvushkin. 1840, chalk and wash. A
successful amateur, friend and contemporary of the Bruillov brothers, with a
similar painting style. 9. (below) Mikhail Lermontov, The Battle at Valerik.
watercolor, late 1830s.

In Russia it was generally true that amateurs belonged to the
aristocratic and landowning classes. No young mans education was
complete without the study of art, accompanied by a grand tour of Europe.
One very talented Russian amateur was Prince Gargarin, 1810-1895,
a wealthy nobleman and friend of artists Karl and Alexander Bruillov. His
drawings and sketches are some of the best that were done in nineteenth
century Russia. His early watercolors were equally good.
Another talented amateur was Mikhail Lermontov, 1814-1841, a
romantic poet whose short life was packed with misfortune. Raised in
wealth by a domineering grandmother, Lermontov was never allowed to
know his father, a poor army officer. His poetry echoed the sorrow of his
childhood. Lermontov was only 15 years younger than his idol Pushkin. He
inherited Pushkins title as the greatest Russian poet, when Pushkin was
killed in a duel in 1837. Ironically, Lermontov died a few years later at age
27, also as a result of a duel.
Lermontov illustrated his poetry with watercolors. He never painted
for profit and, indeed, gave away most of his work not used to illustrate his
writings. Drawing on his military experiences, Lermontov depicted scenes of
military life. He painted many portraits in watercolor of himself and his
friends that have real charm.17
Svinin was the embodiment of the amateur trend in watercolor
during the early part of the nineteenth century. His artistic ability surfaced
early in his schooling. He never lost his love of watercolor and its portability,
carrying his paints with him on all his travels.

Priori, Marcel, Romantic Art (New York and London: McGraw-
Hill Book Company Inc. and Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1960), p.9.
Gothic novels like Horace Walpoles Castle of Otranto. A Gothic
Tale, were popular in the late 18th century. Jane Austens Northanger
Abbey, a satire on the gothic movement, appeared in the early 19th century
just as Sir Walter Scotfs historical novels were becoming popular. By mid-
century the Bronte sisters added gothic mystery to the romances.
3Stavrou, Theofanis George, Art and Culture in Nineteenth Century
Russia (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1983), p.143.
4Brown, Hilton, "The History of Watercolor," American Artist
Magazine. (Vol. 47, Issue 487, February 1983), p.46.
6Mayoux, Jean-Jacques, English Painting, from Hogarth to the Pre-
Raphaelites (New York: SKIRA, St. Martins Press, 1972), p.109.
7Clarke, Martin, The Tempting Prospect: A Social History of
English Watercolors (London: Colonnade Books, published by British
Museum Publications, 1981), p.73.
8Benois, Alexandre, The Russian School of Painting (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1916), p.74
9Ibid., p.151
10Brother of artist Karl Bruillov.
nBenois, p.47
12Since Svinin was in America at the time of publication, he may
have done the paintings from memory. His sketches and paintings of
America often use architectural backgrounds, but they were much livlier.
The difference might be that the American scenes were primarily painted on
13Brion, p.51.
14Clarke, p.103
15Poets, usually from Englands lake district, who wrote in elegy
style, such as Thomas Gray, William Keats and William Wordsworth.
16While English painters found inspiration in their own country
Russian artists were not interested in painting the Russian countryside until
Alexyey Venetsianov (1779-1847 pioneered a movement to introduce daily
life into painting. Venetsianov, who never attended the Academy, founded a

small school of painting that emphasized teaching artists to paint their native
land. Academy-trained Orest Kripinsky (1782-1836) studied with
Venetsianov and was one of his most successful students.
17According to D. Fedotoff White, Lermontov attended the
"Pansion" some years after Svinin, but did not graduate (p.6).

Paul Svinins art would be a constant companion as he pursued his
diplomatic career. His teachers at the Pansion instilled a love of the historic
in Svinin that made him want to visually record history.1 And he did
throughout the rest of his life with watercolors that continued to compliment
his writing.
Svinin began his diplomatic career in March, 1806, as secretary to
Chancellor Vorontsov at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. He would turn 19
in just a few months.
His next assignment was unusual for a newcomer to the diplomatic
corps. In the summer of 1806 Svinin was appointed attache to the staff of
Vice-Admiral D.N. Seniavin, commander of Russian naval and land forces in
the Mediterranean then headquartered at Corfu in the Ionian Islands.2
Although young, Svinin came well equipped to the job. He was very
well educated and could write and speak several languages. He enjoyed
meeting people and seems to have met them easily. He became totally
immersed in learning the local customs, language and history wherever he
traveled. A keen observer, he had the makings of a first-rate journalist.
Svinin defined himself as the sort of man who wanted to know everything,
see everything and go everywhere.3

For this first assignment Svinin left the Kronstadt4 for the
Mediterranean on the ship Silnyi under the command of Commodore I.A.
Ignatev, The Silnyi was part of a fleet of five ships sent to reinforce the
Vice-Admirals fleet. Svinin joined the Fleet in Dalmatia. For the next 14
months he remained on the Admirals staff, even participating in a campaign
against the Turks.5
It was on this tour that Svinin saw England for the first time on the
ships way to Corfu. He had been in love with the idea of England and
admired all things English since his days at the Pansion, where he studied
English language and literature.6
His feelings for England are reflected in his third book Memoirs of
the Fleet, published in St. Petersburg in 1818-1819:7 "And so I trod today the
soil of the land I wanted to see ever since my childhood, which I loved to
imagine perfect, accustomed as I was to give the name of English to all that
was beautiful in my fatherland."8 William Shakespeare and Henry Fielding
were his favorite English writers and later in Lisbon he visited Fieldings
grave. He admired English artists William Hogarth and Thomas
Rowlandson and their influence shows in his later sketches from America.
At an early impressionable age Svinin came in touch with many
culturesLatin, Southern Slav, Greek and Turkish-at the same time meeting
and being impressed by many important men of different nationalities. One
was Sir Sidney Smith, Napoleons victor at Acre and a great seaman.
Another was a Mr. Hopkins from Philadelphia, whose friendship he would
enjoy four years later during his time in America.

The Writer Emerges
During this first assignment, Svinin kept a voluminous journal which
he used as the basis of Memoirs of the Fleet The book reflects the
impressions made on this romantic young man by his voyage to the
Mediterranean. He wrote of his experiences traveling through Spain on his
way home to Russia after this first voyage. Memoirs also contains some of
the earliest Russian romantic writings on Spain and is the forerunner of later
Russian writers attempts to bring Spanish culture to Russia.9
Working as a diplomatic officer to the Admiral left Svinin plenty of
time for shore leaves to sightsee and sketch. With a love of classical
antiquity as well as contemporary life, he sketched many legendary places--
the rock where Aeneas found Helen during his flight from Troy, the garden
where Virgil rested on his way to Greece.10 Unfortunately, no visual or
written record is left of any of these sketches.
The Treaty of Tilsit, when Napoleon and Alexander I made peace
and decided to divide the world between them, was signed in 1807. At the
time Seniavins forces were blockaded in the Mediterranean by the British,11
and Svinin was ordered to return to St. Petersburg with important dispatches
for the Tsar. Because of the blockade, he had to travel overland along the
Tagus River, a perilous journey at the time. For six weeks Svinin traveled on
horseback across Spain, Portugal, France and Germany, ending in Paris
where he had an opportunity to watch Napoleon reviewing his troops.12
Upon his return to St. Petersburg in late 1807, Svinin was awarded
the cross of St. Vladimir, 4th class, an honor unusual for someone so young.
This ended his naval service. For the next three years Svinin was a translator

at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-a very dull assignment considering his
earlier experiences.
The only bright spot was the chance to continue his painting at the
Imperial Academy. From 1808 to 1811 Svinin devoted himself to study at
the Academy. On September 9,1811, he was elected to the Imperial
Academy of Fine Art. Two days later Svinin set sail for his next diplomatic
assignment in America as secretary to Andrei Dashkov, already established
as Consul-General in Philadelphia, then the center of Russian diplomatic
Strengthening The Ties
Early in the American war of independence Englands George III
sent a personal message to Catherine II asking for Russian soldiers to
participate in suppressing the rebellion. Catherine refused. It was not a
question of sympathy towards America on her part, but practical politics: a
growing dissatisfaction with British policies; her desire to be the arbiter in
European affairs; and the need to strengthen Russias growing commercial
ventures in North America.14
Russia, recognizing the need to protect her ships from privateers
and guarantee free navigation to her ports, drew up a Declaration of Armed
Neutrality. The Declaration, signed in 1780, established a firm basis for an
international law protecting the sea trade of neutrals in time of war. It was
an attempt to curb Great Britains arbitrary rule of the seas. Russias actions
were advantageous to the new North American republic and greatly
interested Americans.

In the late eighteenth century Russia traded mainly with England
using English ships. Fearing a growing dependence on England, Russia
desired expanded trade with other countries, especially the new American
republic. Russia hoped to replace England as the major North American
supplier. America in turn used Russia to replace lost shipping when the
British West Indies trade closed. The first trade contacts between Russia
and the young republic were established in 1783, toward the end of
American Revolution, when the new nation was experiencing a shipping
A few years after the Armed Neutrality declaration was signed,
Francis Dana, Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress, was sent
to Russia as a minister from the United States.16
Early Diplomatic Relations
The Russian diplomat in twentieth century America has often been
regarded as a man not to be trusted, representing a government even less
trusted. It was quite different in the early part of the nineteenth century.
When Paul Svinin arrived in 1811, to join the first Russian diplomatic team
in the United States, Americans knew very little about Imperial Russia.
Svinin spent his two years here acquainting Americans with his native land
and trying to instill in his own countrymen some of his enthusiasm for
The idea of an official diplomatic exchange between Russian and
the United States was first approached in 1807 by James Monroe, to
President Thomas Jefferson. Monroe, then American Ambassador to
England, felt that the increasing trade between the two countries made an

exchange of officials necessary. With the French dominating Europe,
Russian officials recognized the wisdom of broadening its influence in
America and becoming less dependent on Great Britain.
Andrei Dashkov came to American earlier the same year to serve as
Consul-Gppyeneral until the arrival of appointed minister Fedor Pahlen in
1810. Dashkov proved to be one of the most observant and articulate
Russian diplomats of all times. His orders were to "act in concurrence with
the order established for the whole diplomatic corps by the decision of
Congress," and "to become acclimated to the traditions and customs of the
country, study its constitution, and desist from any interference in the
internal affairs of the United States."17
Judging from his extensive traveling through America, it would seem
that Svinin had broader duties than that of a secretarial aide to the consul.
From his detailed studies of American industry, commerce and agriculture,
one historian concluded that Svinin was also acting as a commercial
secretary for the Russian government.18 It is possible that because of his
avid interest in American inventions and commercial ventures that might
benefit Russia, he had secret duties for the government. At the very least
Svinin may have fancied himself a government scout, for he yearned to bring
American ideas and technology to Russia.
Russian-American Trade Relations
The Russian-American Company, a Russian trading company firmly
established on the northwest coast of the United States, hoped to acquire
Columbia River basin land and establish a colony. There was conflict
between the Company and the United States government over the land and

the sale of armaments. America traders were selling firearms to the Indians,
which was a threat to the Russian settlements. Dashkov and Svinin were
instructed by the Russian government to lay the groundwork for a treaty
regulating Russian-American relations in northwest America, to find out
what the American intentions were and, at the same time, "to acquaint the
citizens of the United States with the Company and inspire in them sympathy
and trust for it."19
Russia issued vague instructions to Dashkov about determining the
borders of Russian America and the Russian Companys relations with the
local Indians. Consequently the American government felt Dashkov had
insufficient authority in these matters, so questions of territorial borderlines
and contraband sale of firearms were never resolved until the Monroe
Doctrine settled such things in 1824.
By the time Dashkov arrived big merchants and fur traders from
Boston and New York were already trading with Northwest America.
Foremost among them was John Jacob Astor, who created the American
Fur Company in 1808 in New York and its west coast branch, the Pacific Fur
Company, in 1810. Svinin helped Pahlen and Dashkov negotiate with Astor
to establish a business connection with the Russian-American Company.
This alliance wanted to exclude outside traders and prevent the import of
firearms for the local Indian population. Astor and the Russian company
reached a mutual trade agreement in 1812 and business flourished.
Svinin admired Americans as much as he did the English. He
particularly admired the American genius for industrial production, new
inventions, our theory of government and individual rights, and the public
school system. Americans had a certain "liveliness of spirit" that transcended
even that of his beloved English.20

Svinin is full of admiration for the business sense of the Americans,
and for their commercial achievements. He gives an eyewitness account in
his later article "A Glance at the United American States," published in 1814
in the Russian magazine Syn otechestva (The Son of The Fatherland):
The enterprising spirit of Americans in Commercial affairs, the
superiority of their shipbuilding, with the help of the European war, in
the past twenty years put, one may say, the trade of the whole world in
their hands. In the last thriving years the American trade turnover was
200 million dollars annually, and about five thousand ships left their
ports and came there loaded with goods.
"It is possible, Svinin continued, "that England will put all possible
obstacles in the way of American trade, since she sees clearly that this nation
through its enterprise and skill in trade will forever be a feared rival for
He notes in his article that trade between Russia and America began
in 1783, and in 1810 "over one hundred bottoms left Boston and other
Massachusetts ports for Russia."
It is to be expected that England will continually try to hamper
American trade in every way, for she sees clearly that in this people,
with its enterprise and commercial ability, she will always have a
formidable competitor, who will attempt to wrest her markets away
from her everywhere. The outcome of the present war [the War of
1812] will decide whether or not the Americans will take an active part
in world commerce, and should they be allowed [by England] to do so,
trade between America and Russia will assume considerable
He continues by listing Russian products that would probably find a
ready market in the U.S.
Svinin speaks with enthusiasm of the expedition sent by a "New
York merchant, Ivan [John Jacob] Astor" to find a short overland route to
the Pacific coast.

For this purpose he gathered fifty hardy youths, provided them
with everything necessary for this difficult trip and sent them off in 1810,
setting a point at which they should reach the Pacific and he also sent
two boats from New York around Cape Horn to meet them. This
expedition will cost him 250,000 rubles. What an enterprise for a
private citizen! May it be crowned with success.
He goes on to write about the expedition and Indian exchanges and
What a pity that the purpose of the expedition is solely commerce!
None of its members is in a position to take notes or to make
discoveries in Natural History or Astronomy and there is no one who
could describe or draw the more curious objects. I envy the lot of these
fortunate ones, and much would I give if I could make such a voyage.22
Clearly Svinin felt his ability to write and paint history would have
been an asset to the expedition.
There were only two things he found disturbing about the American
character: the commercial spirit of Americans ("money is their God") and
lack of introspection ("one should not look for profound philosophers and
celebrated professors").23 But, he acknowledged that American were
consummate businessmen and their laws were wise and just.
In 1812 Napoleon, at the peak of his power, invaded Russia. Almost
simultaneously the conflict between the United States and England broke
out on the other side of the Atlantic. The war brought a few surprises.
While Americans did not achieve any significant success on land, its small
navy proved a worthy opponent for British navy, then the mistress of the
seas. Svinin noted in his journal the United States had at its disposal 23
warships, including 10 frigates, plus 180 gunboats; and 10 more frigates were
being built. In the course of military operations the Americans had "proved
their superiority over all the nations in the naval art."24
The war also damaged trade between the Russian-American
Company and United States traders. In spite of the efforts of Dashkov,

Svinin and Astor, direct voyages of American vessels to Russian possessions
almost stopped. America, with the Continental blockade causing strained
relations with Europe, could only count on the support of one major power
to protect American shipping-Russia.
The conflict brought another concern to Russia. Englands allied
support was badly need in its fight against Napoleon. Dashkov, already
concerned about continuing commerce with America, initiated Russias bid
for a peaceful end to the war. With the news of Napoleons rout from Russia
and the war with England taking an unfavorable turn for the United States,
Russias mediation seemed the best chance for an end to the war.
Tsar Alexander I, acting as a mediator, attempted to negotiate the
peace between the two countries. The British initially rejected the offer, but
later agreed to direct negotiations with her former colony. Russias position
was a substantial factor in influencing the 1814 Treaty of Ghent, when
military actions stopped and old borders between Britain and the United
States were resumed. A great deal of interest now developed in the United
States about Tsar Alexander I and Russia, both unknown quantities to
Americans in the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Svinin was concerned about the "ridiculous wonders and strange
falsehoods" Americans had about Russia.25 He would attempt to correct
these false impressions by publishing glowing descriptions about his native
country and its people.

1White,D. Fedotoff, "A Russian Sketches Philadelphia, 1811-1813,"
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (January, 1951) p.7.
2Ibid., p. 8.
3Yarmolinsky, Avraham. Picturesque United States of America,
1811,1812,1813, being a Memoir on Paul Sviinin. Russian Diplomatic
Officer, Artist and Author (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1930) p.4.
4An island on the Gulf of Finland (near St. Petersburg) where navy
ships are launched.
5White, p.8.
6Ibid., p.9.
Published in St. Petersburg, 1818, in three volumes. According to
White (p.4) Memoirs remains one of the best descriptive sources of Admiral
Seniavins campaign against the Turks-it made the Admiral a national hero
and is still being used by naval historians and Russian naval officers today.
8White, p.9.
9Ibid., p.10. Ludmilla Buketoff Tukevichs interesting book,
Cervantes in Russia (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950),
chronicles Spains ongoing cultural influence on Russia, from the first
diplomatic and social contact in 1524 to the early twentieth century.
Ambassador to Spain Petr Ivanovich Ptomkin awakened Russias interest in
1667 with the first detailed report on Spain and its people. Catherine IIs
reign marked the appearance of translated Spanish books and articles. By
the mid-to-late nineteenth century Spain held a great attraction for Russian
artists, writers, poets and travelers who, like Svinin, would write some
interesting accounts of their visits. Spain continued to figure as a literary
motif or background in the works of Pushkin, Maikov (Svinins father-in-
law), Gogol, Dostoyevski and Turgenev. Composer Mikhail Glinka, often
called the father of Russian music, sensing a kinship to his native Russia in
Spanish folk music, wove Spanish motifs into his music, as did Tchikovsky,
Borodin and de Falla, (was he Russian?)
10Yarmolinsky, p.4.
11 White, p.10. War had been declared between Russia and
12Yarmolinsky, p.4.
13Bolkhovitinov, Nikolai N., The Beginnings of Russian-American
Relations. 1774-1815, translated by Elena Levin (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1975) p.206-7. Count Feodor von der Pahlen was
appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary in 1809 by the

College of Foreign Affairs. Tsar Alexander I, in a letter to President Thomas
Jefferson in 1808, refers to "Andre de Daschkoff, my Consul-General and
Charge dAffaires, who will serve until Count Pahlen is free to take up his
duties as Minister Plenipotentiary." Pahlen was held up in South America on
a diplomatic assignment. The staff of the mission to be established in
Philadelphia was comprised of the minister, a counselor to the Embassy and
a secretary.
14Bolkhovitinov, pp. xiii & xv. Anglo-Russian relations had been
friendly until then but the war in America revealed contradictions not
evident before. Georges note indicated that he would "accept" Russian
soldiers, but in truth he demanded them.
15The war in Europe, which began in 1792 and continued with short
interruptions until 1815, was responsible a flourishing of American trade and
unheard-of profits.
16Ibid., p. xii. Fourteen-year-old John Quincy Adams accompanied
Dana as secretary and intepreter.
17Ibid., pp.200 & 255. At the same time Dashkov received his
appointment, A.G.Evstaf ev was appointed to the point of consul in Boston,
where he remained until 1826, playing a prominent part in the development
of Russian-American commercial and cultural connections. By 1811 a
Russian vice-consul was established in New York and by 1812 there were
consular agents in Norfolk, Providence, Portland, Salem, Charleston, and
New Orleans). All had equal authority under Pahlen in the eyes of the
Russian government, but not to the U.S. government.
18White, p.ll.
19Boklhovitinov, p.272.
20Jeffery, Margaret, "As a Russian saw us in 1812," Metropolitan
Museum of Art Bulletin. (Volume 1 Number 3, November, 1942) p. 137.
21Bolkolhovitinov, p. 84. Bolkhovitinovs note: I preserve Svinins
order of subject matter, even though it does not correspond precisely to the
importance of various articles of Russian-American commerce.
22Yarmolinsky, p. 13-14 (from "A Glance at the United American
^Abroad in America: Visitors to a New Nation. 1776-1914. edited
by Marc Pachter and Frances Wein, (Washington D.C.: Addison-Wesley
Publishing Company in association with the National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, 1976), p. 16.
24Bolkhovitinov, p. 295.
^Davidson, Marshall B., "Voyage Pittoresque aux Etats Unis de
lAmerique par Paul Svingnine," American Heritage Magazine. (February,
1964), p.50.

In the fall of 1811 Paul Svinin, already a seasoned diplomat at age
twenty-four, arrived in America to take up his post in Philadelphia. He was a
good choice. An accomplished young man already familiar with several
Western languages, including English, he had a good grasp of economic and
political matters. He was socially polished, could write reasonably well and,
as we already know, was very able with paints and brush.
As on earlier trips he kept detailed notes on everything he saw and
did in America. Svinin was a documentary artist with the ability to capture
history on paper with pen and brush and his painted observations presented
accurate and insightful views of the countries he visited.
He became an honorary member of the Academy of Art in New
York, establishing the first direct contact between the academies of the two
countries.1 In Philadelphia he joined The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine
Arts, participating in the Academys second annual exhibit in 1812, by
submiting 12 watercolors with Russian themes.2
Sketches of Russia
Within six months after his arrival in the United States, Svinin
published two articles in the Philadelphia Port Folio, a leading American

periodical published in Philadelphia. The first article, "A Biographical
Account of the Emperor of Russia" appeared in the March, 1812 issue. It
was illustrated with an engraving of Svinins portrait of Tsar Alexander I.3
With early signs of the patriotism that would later consume him and in open
admiration for his Tsar, Svinin writes:
The actions of a great and good Sovereign are ever open and
conspicuous: they invite scrutiny-they command admiration. The
history of them is recorded in the hearts of all his subjects. A monarch
who justly estimates the glory of this station has but one wish: it is--to be
the father of his people; the assertor and defender of their rights; the
protector of their liberties; their instructor and their guardian. Such a
monarch is the Emperor of Russia. His accession to the throne was as
the dawn of a new and glorious day over those vast regions and that
multitude of nations which he was called to govern.4
The magazines lead article in the same issue commented that it was
"indebted to the politeness of an officer, the first exercise of whose
distinguished talents, as an artist, since his residence among us, is the
patriotic attempt to diffuse the fame of his sovereign."5
Svinins second contribution to Port Folio appeared the next month.
The magazines frontispiece was Svinins illustration of "A Cossack of the
Don in his Military Dress." The accompanying article about the Cossacks of
the Don compared the American Indian to a Russian Cossack.
The Cossacks are the descendants of the ancient warlike colonies
of the Sclavonians, known in history as Vsadniqui, or Cavalry... nature
has gifted them with an exquisite sense of sight and hearing, similar to
those of the American Indians... who [the Cossack and the Indian]
can, by applying his ear to the ground, tell from the hollow sound the
distance and number of a body of calvary.6
Although his writing about Russia tended to somewhat inaccurate,
overblown and ambiguous, with stiff and unnatural illustrations, it stimulated
American interest in Russia. Encouraged by the success of these early
articles, Svinin published a volume titled Sketches of Moscow and St.

Petersburg, in 1813 shortly before leaving America. The book, published by
Thomas Dobson of Philadelphia, included Svinins previous articles for Port
Folio and was illustrated by nine colored engravings from his original
According to Dr. D. Fedotoff, it is difficult to relate the illustrations
in Sketches to Svinins livlier American watercolors. He says the portraits are
stiff and the landscapes vague and amateurish.8
Although it is poorly organized with chapters jumping from one
unrelated subject to another, the book was quite popular in America. It
gives detailed accounts of living conditions in Russia, the customs and
traditions of the people and the descriptions of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Svinin tried to make the book like a travelogue that would inform the world
about Russia, what it was really like and why people should travel there. In
the book he imagines a traveler being blindfolded and magically transported
to St. Petersburg.
Before taking the bandage from his eyes I would say to him--Sir
guess where you are?--he would tell me--I smell about me merchandize
[sic]--bale goods: here are oranges, lemons, walnuts, leather, raisins.
Now I hear the pulling of ropes; the cries of sailors, hauling up
merchandize [sic]. I hear the ships carpenters at work. I hear Danish,
English, Swedish, German words and others that are unknown to me,
and that sound very soft. The bandage is put back on as the traveler is
transported around the city and taken off to see the citys different
parts, whereupon the traveler remarks: This city, if it is in Europe,
cannot be any other than St. Petersburg. Such a pleasing and various
aspect marked by any such great features, is not an appendage of any
other city in the world. This seems to belong to all nations, encloses
more than one climate, and comprehends all extremes.9
Svinin advised his readers to distrust the superficial testimony of
foreigners who publish suppositions for the sake of entertaining the public.
One such enlightened observer laughed at the folly of the Russians
in lighting a fire in the streets for the purpose of warming the air. He,

certainly, made this ridiculous observation after having seen in very cold
weather in the public places and squares, and near the theaters and
palaces, fires lighted for the coachmen in waiting to warm themselves
So little was known about Russia in the beginning of the nineteenth
century in both Europe and America, that Svinins book was a welcome
addition to the few writings about Russia that were available. It became a
valuable source of information regarding Americas attitude towards Russia
and the Russian-French war of 1812.
Impressions of America
In Sketches Svinin first brings in his theme about the similarities
between Russia and America. He draws a parallel between Russia and
America by citing the unfavorable impressions others held about the two
In comparing Russia and America he emphasized several points
true in his time: rapid economic and cultural development in both countries
and impressive cities-St. Petersburg, Philadelphia, New Yorkcities that
emerged out of what was wilderness one hundred years earlier. He
compared Russian hospitality favorably with that of America, insisting that
"it only suffices to be a stranger, to insure a good and cordial reception."11
Svinin made other parallels that seem somewhat less believable. He
compared the existence of non-orthodox religions in the Russia of Alexander
I to American religious tolerance. Another comparison that stretches the
imagination is his observation that Russia was an asylum for the unfortunate
and the persecuted. He explained this bizarre theory by the fact that
Russians who really wanted to escape the Tsars injustices or the

persecutions of the Orthodox church could escape to remote parts of Russia
(like Siberia) and did not have to leave their homeland to start a new life.
His most naive idea was an attempt to defend serfdom, the lack of religious
freedom and the Tsars rule by explaining that there was no Russian
immigration to America.
What a pleasure for a Russian, what food for his complacency,
what glory to his Government, when traveling through all these vast
lands of America and seeing there inhabitants hailing from all the well-
ordered countries of Europe priding themselves on their liberty and
wealth, he does not come upon a single compatriot who has fled here, as
did all the others, from the injustice of the laws of his country, from
religious persecution, or to find freedom and a broader field for his
This was supposed to be proof that the serfs were better off than
those in similar positions in Central and Western Europe who were
immigrating America.
Some visitors to America before and after Svinin found more
differences than similarities between America and their own country. In
1780, thirty-one years before Svinins "pittoresque" voyage, Francois-Jean
Marquis de Chastellux came to America as a major general in the French
expeditionary force. Chastellux, a French aristocrat, served for three years
as liaison officer between the American and French. In this capacity he
frequently traveled throughout the new nation. Chastellux kept a journal of
his impression, published in 1786 in France under the title of Voyage de
Newport a Phildelphie, Albany & c.13
Chastellux was impressed by the rapid clearing of new land and the
American farmers ability to learn by experience and adapt to new needs. It
was a nation that mastered nature by hard work and neighbors help, as
opposed to a French countryside bound to tradition. Like Svinin he
marveled that a country of three million inhabitants was nothing but a forest

100 years earlier. Wooden homes, far superior to rural French dwellings,
were rapidly constructed in the wilderness with everyones help. This
element of mutual assistance fascinated Chastellux. He admired the open
and direct communication of these free citizens.
In contrast to Europe, where reform was threatened by corruption,
superstition and endless war, America had proven to be a great success.
Chastellux hoped that this success would endure and Americas leaders
would not learn to abuse their power.
Eighteen years after Svinin left America, Alexis de Tocqueville set
sail for the New world with his friend, Gustave de Beaumont. The two
aristocrats arrived in America in 1831 and would spend ten months traveling
from Boston to New Orleans and Georgia to Michigan. Their official
purpose was to study the American penal system but their true goal was to
write a definitive and "scientific" book on American life.14
Like Svinin, de Tocqueville found similarities between Russia and
America. 'Their starting point is different," he wrote, "and their courses are
not the same, yet each of them seems marked out by the will of heaven to
sway the destinies of half the globe."15
He, too, was fascinated by daily life in America. But de Tocqueville,
unlike Svinin, regrets the lack of style and social hierarchy in America,
although both were aristocrats. "Americans" he notes, "have no sense for the
finer things of life that are born of aristocratic leisure and wealth is the only
social distinction."16
Although de Tocquevilles book Democracy in America, published in
1835, brilliantly describes life and politics in America, Svinins Pittoresque
Voyage was a better guide to its social and economic side in the early part of
the nineteenth century.

American inventiveness
Svinin had time to travel as far north as Maine and as far south as
Virginia, all the time remaining an alert, eager and practical-minded
observer. He got to know American manners, customs and way of life,
reading as many books as he could about the country, interviewing the
people and translating his enthusiasm visually into lively watercolors. Even
when not traveling he put any spare time in Philadelphia to good use by
attending the local events, always accompanied by his sketchbook.
Judging from this extensive travel through America it would seem
that Svinin had broader duties than that of secretarial aide to the consul.
From his detailed notes on American industry, commerce and agriculture,
one historian concluded that Svinin was acting also as a commercial
secretary for the Russian government.17 It was certainly true that the
government entrusted Svinin, along with Dashkov, to settle trade relations
on the northwest coast. And he continually persisted in bringing various
American inventions to Russias attention, as if he were an appointed agent.
Svinin wrote enthusiastically about Americans ability to invent
things that would circumvent capital and labor shortages in such a new and
vast land. He noted, in turn, that increasing mechanization brought more
trade and wealth.
It was Robert Fultons new steamboat that really captured Svinins
imagination. After witnessing the test trip of Fultons steamboat Paragon on
November 21,1811, Svinin almost abandoned his diplomatic career to
develop a steamboat industry in Russia. He felt it would be a better way to
transport goods on Russias vast network of rivers and canals than by current
method of peasant-pulled barges.

1. Paul Svinin, (1787-1839). Deck Life on the Paragon. 1812, watercolor. Robert
Fultons steamboat with Fort Putnam and West Point in the background.
2. Paul Svinin. Trenton Diligence. 1812, watercolor. An early coach traveling
from Trenton, New Jersey, to an unknown destination. Svinin was fascinated with
transportation in America.


3. Paul Svinin. A Ferrvride on the Susquehanna, between 1811 and 1813,
watercolor. Crossing the Susquehanna River at Wrights Ferry.
4. Paul Svinin. Mohawk of Albany, between 1811 and 1813, watercolor. A sailing
packet passing the Palisades of the Hudson River in New York.

Svinins watercolor, "Deck life on the Paragon", documents the
historic event. He recounts the experience in again in Syn Otechestva.
Conceive of a vessel having the appearance of a flat-bottomed
frigate, unafraid of storms, independent of wind, careless of foul
weather, moving with amazing speed and security and running on
schedule; within are peace, comfort, and the very whims of luxurious
living: such is the picture of an American Steamboat...
We have good cause to suppose that in the near future we shall see
such craft crossing the ocean, bringing us treasures from the remotest
parts of the world18
The painting is a lively rendition of the steamboat serenely
ploughing through the rough waters of the Hudson River with Fort Putnam
and West Point in the background. The boat is peopled with a eager bunch
of passengers, looking as though the trip is a great adventure, in a genre style
not much seen in America at this time.19
Dashkov, and more actively Svinin, championed the steamboat and
official negotiations began in October, 1812, for the utilization of Fultons
invention. Svinin studied drawings and models of steamboats. He wrote
Count Nicholas Petrovich Rumiantsev, Chancellor of State and former
Minister of Commerce, a detailed description of this amazing invention. He
wanted the Russian government to construct steamships, appointing him
supervisor of construction. He even offered to build a steamboat at his own
expense. Russia declined both suggestions. Svinins later explanation was
that it took too long for Rumiantsev to receive his letter and during the
interim John Adams, the American ambassador, obtained a 15-year
government monopoly for Robert Fulton to build the first Russian
However, Svinins tendency toward inaccuracy turns up in this
instance in a book by Fultons great granddaughter, Alice Sutcliffe. Fulton

had earlier made plans to introduce steamships into foreign waters when
Svinin wrote to him. Fultons reply to "Chevalier Svinie"on April 12,1812
explained that he had already asked John Adams to obtain a 20-year
exclusive from the government for him (Fulton) to build steamships in
Russia. But, if his bid should be turned down he would consider Svinins
proposal. Not content with this answer, Svinin wrote Fulton again.
Doubtless Sir, it is known to you, that for several months past I
have been taken up with your admirable invention of the steam boat,
dedicating all my knowledge for its introduction in Russia. As you have
received the Imperial permission for this introduction, I offer you, Sir,
my services, which I flatter myself may be of great utility. Certainly it
will be necessary for you to have the plan of the River Neva and of the
channel from St. Petersburg to Cronstadt [sic], to have the clearest
information of the value of materials necessary for the construction of
the steam boat, the description of other communications by water in
Russia, etc. I hope to give you all that and whatever else may be
requisite for you in the most agreeable way, as none but myself can
satisfy you.
My demands are limited to the two following agreements:
1st That your Company honour [sic] me with the title of
Superintendent of the Steamboats of Russia.
2nd: That it will grant me on my arrival in Russia an annual salary
as may seem most just.. .20
Sutcliffe goes on to write that when Fulton died in 1815, the
steamboat The Emperor of Russia was in process of building. In accordance
with Fultons earlier contract it was to be transferred to Russian waters
before December 1st. The enterprise was postponed and subsequently
taken up by other contractors.
The steamship was not the only form of transportation that
interested Svinin. American modes of travel were favorite subjects for his
sketchbook. One of his most enjoyable watercolors shows the "Trenton
Diligence", a four-horse coach out of Trenton, New Jersey, bumping and

shaking at breakneck speed over the rough roads. It is the only really
authentic picture we have of early stagecoach travel in America. Other
watercolors with valuable insight to early American travel are "Merrymaking
at a Wayside Inn" where the coach made an overnight stop; "The Chain
Bridge over the Merrimac River"; "Crossing the Susquehanna" and the
sailing packet "Mohawk of Albany."
Svinin found Americans a practical people who worked hard to earn
a living, using their private wealth, rather than the government, to establish
hospitals, old peoples homes, orphans asylums and other philanthropic
institutions. He was amazed with the readiness of Americans to turn their
wealth back into the development of the country. This was especially true in
building canals, roads and bridges, with private money and very little
government aid.21
Svinin The Artist
Svinins keen ability to portray American life is vividly conveyed in
his watercolors of the more extreme Protestant sectsthe Quakers, Shakers
and Anabaptists-along with the religious practices of the Indians and blacks,
In writing about religion in America he stressed the spirit of religious
tolerance and considered this the principal cause of Americas fast growth
and well-being. He attended camp meetings,22 baptisms, Methodist revivals
and Quaker meeting houses. His paintings and sketches recorded them all.
"Negro Methodists Holding A Religious Meeting" shows the
emotion and frenzy of the excited worshipers, dancing, jumping and rolling
on the ground. In contrast to the staid ritual of the Russian Orthodox

5. Paul Svinin. Merrymaking at a Wayside Inn. 1812, watercolor. An overnight
stop for the Conestoga wagon parked in front of the inn. The gentleman with the
whip may be the coachman.

6. Paul Svinin. Negro Methodists Holding a Religious Meeting in a Philadephia
Alley. 1811, watercolor. Svinin found the variety of religions in America startling.
He felt that the fact that even members of the same household belong to different
religious groups was a credit to the American government and American
7. Paul Svinin. A Philadelphia Anabaptist Submersion. 1811, watercolor. He
wrote that during a rainstorm, the initiates stepped into the river while a choir

8. Paul Svinin. Sunday Morning in Front of the Meeting
House, between 1811 and 1813, watercolor. A somber-
looking Quaker family strolls past the Arch Street meeting
house with expressions that suggest the mood of a
Philadelphia Sunday. Svinin found Quaker women full of
seductive charm with their blue eyes, fair hair, fine figures
and small feet.

Church, the Methodists seemed to Svinin almost frightening in their noisy
ceremonies.23 Here his work is strongly suggestive of the two English genre
painters he most admired-William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson.
Typical is the watercolor "A Philadelphia Anabaptist Submersion"
painted after witnessing an outdoor baptism. It shows the candidates
stepping solemnly into the river to be totally submersed by the preacher. All
the onlookers and participants stand waist deep in the river, including the
In "Sunday morning in front of the Arch Street Meeting House" a
Quaker family suggest what a quiet, somber Philadelphia Sunday was like.
The Society of Friends called form Svinins admiration, particularly the
women. Demure young Quaker ladies appear almost seductive compared to
their unsmiling parents.24
Indian customs both intrigued and repulsed Svinin as he painted
tribal dances and ceremonies, warriors in full war dress and many different
versions of Indian faces drawn from life. Two of Svinins Indian paintings,
"Portrait of an Osage Warrior" and "Chief of Little Osages," were stylistically
different from his other Indian paintings. Two similar watercolors
discovered in 1926, were painted by St. Memim in 1804, which explain the
discrepancy. It has been deduced that Svinin copied these watercolors by St.
Memin, a French artist painting in America.25 Yarmolinsky speculates that
he either saw them at the in the home of Sir Augustus John Foster, secretary
to the British legation in Washington, or copied them from an engraving
illustrating an article on Indian antiquities in the American Medical and
Philosophical Record.

9. (left) Paul Svinin. A Negro group in Front of the Bank of Pennsylvania,
watercolor, between 1811 and 1813. Svinin enjoyed depicting city life with scenes
like these sawyers plying their trade. He found Philadelphia a most impressive
city. 10. (right) Paul Svinin. Night life in Philadelphia, watercolor, between
1811 and 1813. An oyster vender peddles his wares at night in front of the
Chestnut Street Theatre* 11. (below) Paul Svinin. City Troup, watercolor, 1812.
Volunteers assembling during the war of 1812. The mounted figures in the
background are members of the First Troup, Philadelphia City Calvary, founded
during the American Revolution.

12. (above) Paul Svinin. Indian Tribal Ceremonies. 1812, watercolor. Probably
an exhibition of tribal ceremonies at the Olympic Theatre in Philadelphia.
13. (below) Paul Svinin. Chief of the Little Osages. 1812, pencil. A copy of a
watercolor by French artist St. Memin in 1804.

Svinin was a romanticist. He not only had an intense curiosity about
picturesque non-European peoples and their customs, he had a romantic
love of scenery, particularly grand and impressive sights like Niagara Falls.
Overwhelmed by the Falls, he jotted down these impressions after a visit
I have just returned tired, exhausted, fairly suffocated from under
this wondrous vault (the rushing water, in falling, forms an arch, under
which one can freely pass)! Having somehow climbed onto the wold cliff
which fronts the cataract, I hasten to collect my thoughts which are
stirred like this very chasm, to unburthen [sic] my panting breast, to free
myself from the spell cast by the Falls.26
Svinin painted several versions of the Falls, including "General view
of the Falls", which was actually a copy of a sketch by the Ornithologist,
Alexander Wilson.27
From the Falls Svinin went on to experience other wonders of
nature in America, painting scenes like "Natural Bridge, Virginia", which he
describes as "two tall mountains joined by a perfect granite arch suspended
in the air".28 He painted landscapes of the violence of nature like "a tornado
whipping up the trees and its aftermath", making his Russian landscapes
seem lifeless in comparison.
The years spent in America turned out to be Svinins most
productive time as an artist and writer. Nothing he would produce in his
remaining years would have the freshness and enthusiasm of his American

14. Paul Svinin. Niagara Falls Table Rock by Moonlight.
watercolor, between 1811-1813. Svinin wrote that the
thundering roar, the shaking rocks, the indomitable river
filled him with visions of unutterable might and mystery.
15. Paul Svinin. Natural Bridge. Virginia, watercolor, between 1811 and 1813.
Americas natural spectacles were a source of wonder to Svinin.

16. Paul Svioin. The Tornado, between 1811 and 1813, watercolor. The sudden
violence of a tornado whipping through a placid landscape is depicted here. In
a follow-up Svinin paints the same landscape in shambles after the tornado.
17. Paul Svinin. Town along the Mohawk River, watercolor, between 1811 and
1813. He found a dreamlike quality in the way American cities sprang up out of
the wilderness.

18. Paul Svinin. Washingtons tomb, between 1811 and 1813, watercolor.
Svinin visited Mt. Vernon to view the tomb of "the immortal Washington" who
was much admired by liberal Russians.

Bolkhovitinov, p.461, and Yarmolinskly, p.43.
^This was probably an honorary membership similar to the New
York Academy. The exact type of membership is undocumented. The
paintings submitted to the show are described on p. 225 of the Catalog from
the Second Annual Exhibition of The Society of Artists of the United States
and the Pennsylvania Academy, 1812, (courtesy of the Free Library of
3A11 sources, except Nikolai N. Bolkhovitinov, say Svinin did this
portrait. Bolkhovitinov (p.338) writes that an influential Philadelphia
newspaper printed, as a supplement, an article on Russian government-and
a portrait of Alexander I by a well-known American painter, advised by
Svinin. Avraham Yarmolinskys book (p.5) mentions the March, 1812 issue
of Port Folio contains a portrait of Emperior Alexander I drawn by P.Svinin,
Esq. and engraved by David Edwin. From a study of Svinins work in his
book Sketches of Russia, (where this portrait appears) I believe Svinin
painted the original portrait.
4Svinine, Paul, Sketches of Russia (London: K. Newman and
Company, second edition, 1843), p.8 (Courtesy of The Free Library of
5White, D. Fedotoff, "A Russian Sketches Philadelphia, 1811-1813,"
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (January 1951), p.12.
6Yarmolinsky, Avraham, Picturesque United States ofAmerica.
1811.1812.1813. being A Memoir on Paul Svinin. Russian Diplomatic
Officer. Artist and Author (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1930), p.6.
7White, p.13. The book had a second printing in 1814 and third
printing in 1843.
8Although my copy of this book is in xerox form, I concur with Dr.
White on the quality of the books illustrations.
^vinine, pp. iv-v.
10Ibid., p.ii. Svinin specifically refers to a book by E.D.Clark, widely
circulated in both Europe and America, which reportedly gives a superficial
and unobjective view of Russia.
11 White, p.14.
12Yarmolinsky, p.12.
13Abroad in America: Visitors to a New Nation. 1776-1914. edited
by Marc Pachter and Frances Wein (Washington D.C.: Addison-Wesley
Publishing Company in association with the National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, 1976), p.4.

14Ibid., p.54.
15Ibid., p.14.
16Ibid., p.55. Svinins excitement about American cities was not
shared by de Tocqueville. According to de Tocqueville, they were dull, like
the people. Americans are barely civilized, he wrote, which is only to be
expected with no aristocracy.
1 "White, p.ll.
18Yarmolinsky, pp.7 & 9. From Svinins article titled "The
Observations of a Russian in America: The Description of a Steamboat."
The article was the first of Svinins American essays published in Syn
Otechestva in 1814.
19As late as the civil war many critics insisted that an American
genre painter was not possible because no one had lived long enough in one
spot to develop the appropriate local habits-noted Neil Harris in Abroad in
America, p. 14. Svinin s painting of the Paragon was so admired that it was
used in many periodicals about Fulton and the steamboat. I.N. Phelps Stokes
used it in the first volume of his Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909,
published in 1915, in which he incorrectly identified the boat as the
20Sutcliffe, Alice Crary, Robert Fulton and the "Clermont" (New
York: The Century Co., 1909) pp.294-5
21Pachter, p.xiii and p.14. This concept of a country built mostly from
private enterprise amazed visitors from abroad. America challenged the
traditional structure of civilization. In the early nineteenth century it was the
country of the future, given over entirely to new social ideas and
technological innovation. If human achievement was best expressed by
prosperity rather than be great art, by equality rather than by elegance, by
know-how rather than by sophistication, then the United States stood in the
forefront of progress and Europe was a dying civilization. Many Russians of
the intellectual elite found their own political and social ideals in the
American Revolution. Svinin, who considered himself a liberal, was
convinced that Americas amazing advancement was not only because of its
wealth, but also its moral code. Although he felt money was the American
god, piety and the natural wealth of the country sustained its morals. He
considered the generosity of rich Americans to the less fortunate, even in the
small towns, came from the presence of a "felicitous government," and
"human kindness combined with a happy life is the national trait of the
22According to Avraham Yarmolinsky (p.21) Svinins book contains
one of the earliest references to this pecular institution and is invaluable as a
historical record.
23Davidson, Marshall B., "Voyage Pittoresque aux Etats Unis de
lAmerique par Paul Svignine," American Heritage Magazine (February,
1964), p.60

24Yarmolinsky, p.22. Svinin found that Quaker ladies gave a good
deal of attention to their appearance. "The grey color of their bonnets lends
their snowy languid faces a lovely conventual shadow, a kind of melancholy
which heightens the seductive charm of their blue eyes and fair tresses.
Generally speaking the Quakeresses are distinguished by fine figures and
small feet."
^Yarmolinsky, p. 32.
26Yarmolinsky, p.23.
27Charles Mason Dow was so taken with this last painting that he
used it in his Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. (Vol.l, p.361).
^Davidson, p.62.

Svinins American experience abruptly ended in 1813, when he was
appointed to accompany the famous French general Jean Victor Moreau,
then living in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, to Europe. Tsar Alexander I had
invited General Moreau, who had taken refuge in America, to enter the
Russian service and continue the fight against Napoleon. They sailed from
New York in June, 1813, for Goteberg, Sweden, but Svinins assignment
would end a few months later when General Moreau died from wounds
received at Napoleons victorious battle of Dresden.
In the short time Svinin and the General were together they became
quite close. Moreau looked upon Svinin like a son. Greatly affected by the
Generals death, Svinin wrote "Some details concerning General Moreau and
his last moments; followed by a short biographical memoir," a eulogy to the
Svinin remained with the troops until March, 1814, just before the
allied march on Paris. Before his scheduled return to Russia, Svinin was
dispatched to London where he officially delivered the Emperors
condolences, along with a large Russian pension and grant, to the Generals
widow. He also presented her with a copy of his eulogy. Although the eulogy
has been inaccessible to me Svinin writes movingly about the general in his
second book, Notes from London, published in St. Petersburg in 1815.

London Revisited
Before returning to Russia, Svinin enjoyed a short stay in London,
the first time since his early days in the diplomatic service. This brief time in
London furnished him with material for Notes from London. The book
covers a variety of subjects and observations about London. Although Svinin
was to do many sketches of London, he did not illustrate this book with
The chapters are not arranged in any chronological order, a style
Svinin seemed to adopt in his books. But the writing is in the same colorful,
vivacious style that marks the later Pittoresque Voyage and as valuable a
guide to London and Londoners as his book about America is to Americans.
In the first and longest chapter, a short comparison of London with
Paris, he writes:
The first question which is usually put to someone who has been
both in Paris and London is: which of the two capitals is more cheerful.
Here is my answer. It is impossible not to acknowledge that the French
are the most cheerful, gracious and pleasant people. These features
immediately attract a foreigner in Paris. It is impossible not to be
pleased with the grace with which pleasures are served to you, with the
sharpness with which they foresee your wishes, the ease with which all
pleasures can be granted. Desire something and it will be given to you.
How wonderful! How cheerful! But three or four months have passed
and you feel understandable emptiness in your heart. Pleasures which
have been easily received, lose their value. Now you feel bored in the
midst of incessant luck, get annoyed at chances and yawn in the midst of
entertainments. At lasthaving a sort of dizzy spell and with a heart full
and empty at the same time, with your soul free and tired-you leave
Paris in absolute insensitivity. Only on seeing Paris towers from afar,
will your breath be restored from the oppression. You will be glad you
have found the force to flee this wonderful world. You will congratulate
yourself with you determination and youll rejoice. Not a single sweet
recollection or a single feeling of attachment will spoil your genuine
gladness and you wont sigh about somebody or something. Everything
will be seen as through a veil-it will all become a dream very soon.

On coming to London and meeting important people everywhere,
there is silence, coolness and indifference. One inevitably feels
boredom and displeasure. No one is glad to see you, no
recommendation opens the door of friendship to you. But the more you
meet people, the more you come to understand that this coolness is
actually very prudent. Try your best and you will find true and devoted
friends and youll know love in its perfectness. Lovely Englishwomen do
not know how to be coquettes, but they know how to love with their
passionate and ardent souls. Their seeming coolness is not indifference,
but wise prudence and unspoiled morals. Keep trying your best and you
will find the possible entertainments and all the most delicate pleasures.
In other words Paris is more pleasant for a lazy Sybarite and
London is for an energetic person. One feels pleasure on leaving Paris
and regret on leaving London.2
Another chapter relates Svinins trip from Paris to London,
describing Napoleons devastation of the countryside. He sees the wars
devastation everywhere and is surprised at the Frenchmans ability to make
jokes about the ruins of their own houses. Upon reaching Basel, Svinin meets
with the visiting Empress of Russia, presenting her with his pamphlet on
General Moreau.
After a visit to the British Museum, Svinin describes the art in
meticulous detail, especially the Egyptian collection, the Rosetta stone, and
the museum library. It is obvious that Svinin was very impressed with the
Museum. He had been quietly amassing an art collection of his own, and
undoubtedly was interested for personal reasons.3 Given Svinins past
involvements as an agent (real or self-appointed) for the Russian
government its possible that he was scouting art for the royal collection.
Egyptian art was very popular at this time and the British Museum was (and
still is) famous for its collection.
In a lively chapter Svinin describes London theatersin particular
the Italian opera, Drury Lane and Covent Garden. He writes in great detail

how the Londoners dressed, what kind of entertainment was featured at
each theater and the type of people attended the various theaters.
Svinin has positive remarks about Newgate prison, but is disturbed
about the ambiguities of English morals. He comments on the prevalence of
prostitutes and beggars-particularly child beggars-existing side-by-side with
Gentlemens clubs and other examples of London high life.
The rest of this short book covers such diverse subjects as the
Greenwich observatory, Windsor Castle and the English countryside, Tsar
Alexanders visit to London, mail-coach travel and carriages, post offices,
and English pubs. As in America, he shows great interest in the methods and
economics of transporting goods and gives a good historical account of the
English transport system.
According to Svinins preface to Pittoresque Voyage, during his stay in
London he received tempting proposals to publish his American watercolors
and his notes about America. He asserts that he was repeatedly offered
25,000 rubles for his watercolors.
I had some flattering offers to publish my drawings and sketches
with descriptions of America, from England, where everything new and
curious is received by the public with special encouragement. But the
thought that I would be obliged to write in a foreign tongue, and often
against the commands of my heart, my views, and justice-not the way I
feel, but as Englands policy might demand, or as the editors of my work
might wish, who might perhaps use me as a tool of their hatred toward
the United Statesfinally, the thought that my labors would be put into
the hands of foreigners, that their first fruit would not be reaped by my
own country...made me reject all the advantages offered and undertake
the description of my colorful voyage in the United American Regions
in my own language.4

A Traveler in His Own Country
Svinin travels came to an end in 1814, when he left England to
return to Russia. He immediately published his observations on the
American steamboat and the more extensive general sketch of the United
States in Syn otechestva. These two interesting pieces attracted a great deal
of attention. They were so popular that Svinin had them reprinted in 1815
and 1818, along with five other essays on America, in expanded form as
Pittoresque Voyage.5 Also added were six of the authors own watercolor
illustrations of America. The book, with its observations on American
industry and commerce, the national characteristics of Americans and their
living conditions, remained quite popular, not only in Russia, but
internationally and was soon translated into French, German, and Dutch.
Svinins acumen in collecting such a vast amount of information
about America is most impressive, although it is not always possible to agree
with his views. Russian historian Nikolai N. Bolkhovitinov admits that
"occasionally there are factual inaccuracies and unjust evaluations (for
example in respect to the Indians), but on the whole Svinins work should be
considered a landmark in Russian literature."6
Svinin changed after he returned to Russia. Turning away from his
youthful cosmopolitanism and interest in world events, he began to assume a
narrow, more nationalistic attitude. A strong patriotic mood was alive in
Russia after her wars with France. Svinin echoed this mood by changing his
previous uncritical admiration of all things foreign to fierce nationalism.
More importantly, however, was a nostalgia for his native land, which had
been growing during his many years away from home.7 As Svinin grew older
he became known for his political flexibility, changing politics according to

the current regime. He lost the firm convictions and enthusiasms of his
He was never to leave Russia again. Instead he became a traveler in
his own country. In 1815 the Government sent him to the newly annexed
province of Bessarabia. This was the first of many Governmental journeys to
the many parts of the Russia. These were not diplomatic postings, since he
did not take residence in any of the provinces. Why he was sent is unclear
but the implications are that these trips were some sort of scouting missions
and that he was acting as an agent for the Government.8
At the same time Svinin traveled for the government he continued
to work at writing and painting. In 1824, however, Svinin left the Foreign
Ministry, ending his diplomatic career to work full time at more literary and
scholarly pursuits.

^armolinsky, Avraham, Picturesque United States of America.
1811,1812.1813. being A Memoir on Paul Svinin. Russian Diplomatic
Officer. Artist and Author (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1930), p.19.
The eulogy is dated November 1,1813. Chapter IV of Pittoresque Voyage is
based on this pamphlet. The eulogy enjoyed great popularity. It was
published in 1814 in Paris, London, Boston, and New York and translated
into five languages.
2Svinin, Pavel Petrovitch, Notes From London. (St. Petersburg,
1817), pp. 3-5. Courtesy of the Lenin Library, Moscow, Russia, translated by
Valery Cossaque, Denver, Colorado. The publication date is not clear.
Some sources say 1814 or 1815. The edition I received from the Lenin
Library in Moscow shows a publication date of 1817.)
3Avraham Yarmolinsky (p.44) briefly mentions that Svinin had a
passion for collecting but a concrete description of this collection appears for
the first time in a letter written in 1832 to Sergei Semenovitch (last name
unknown). Letters courtesy of the State Historical Museum, Moscow,
Russia, 1989.
4Bolkhovitinov, Nikolai N., The Beginnings of Russian-American
Relations. 1774-1815. translated by Elena Levin (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press), p.464.
5White, D. Fedotoff, "A Russian Sketches Philadelphia, 1811-1813,"
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (January, 1951) pp. 15-17.
6Bolkhovitinov, p.347.
'White, p.23.
8Ibid., p.24.

In 1818 Svinin began publishing his own periodical magazine,
Otechestvennyia Zapiski (Annals of the Fatherland) in St. Petersburg. At first
he was not only publisher and editor, but its sole contributor. By 1820,
however, the magazine included contributions from some of the important
Russian writers of the day and was solely concerned with Russian themes.
Zapiskis motto was "Nature and God command one to love ones country,
but to know it-that is part of honor, dignity and duty."1
The magazine mirrored Svinins growing nationalism with its
exclusive interest in Russias past, the mores of its population and its many
nationalities. Later, during a difficult period of extreme reaction in Russia in
the 1830s, Svinin joined with those who believed in orthodoxy, autocracy and
nationalism.2 Condemning Svinin for this attitude, Russian poet Alexander
Pushkin remarked: "Pavlushka swore that there were in the home of his
parents, a cooks apprentice-astronomer, a post-boy historian, and that the
poultry-man Proshka wrote verses better that Lomonosov."3 Though his
nationalist bias became more obtrusive as he grew older, Svinin never lost
his admiration for America and its people.
Pittoresque Voyage was only meant to be a preliminary study of his
American observations, with a second volume to explore the subject in great
depth. Although this never happened he did publish two more essays about

America in Otechestvennyia Zapiski. In 1820 a paper on Russian/American
commerce appeared in the magazine. It was an updated version of the part
in Pittoresque Voyage on the same subject. Nine years later "The
Observations of a Russian in America" was published in Zapiski,4 Subtitled
"A Glance at the Liberal Arts in the United American States," it was labeled
an excerpt from the manuscript of the yet-to-be published second volume
Pittoresque Voyage.
Art in America
During his American experience, Svinin seems to have met all the
great artists of the period. In "A Glance at the Liberal Arts" he combines
those meetings into a Whos Who of American artists of the time and
reviews America art. Although suffering from some superficialities and
omissions, the essay, written about 1812, is the best first-hand account by a
competent outsider.5
Svinin was virtually alone in his opinion that Americans "by nature
had a great gift for the Arts," and found the future of painting in America
very promising.6 Europe did not share this feeling. American art was crude
and primitive without the conventions and traditions of European painting.
Americans, in turn, felt inferior and inadequate because they lacked the
traditions of an older culture.
Early American artists had to depend on tinted prints from Europe
to copy and learn from, as native Russian artists did, for guilds, academies
and great salons were non-existent or had little authority. Art supplies were
not easy to come by in the new world. It was about 1750 before these items
appeared in America.7 Also, some of greatest artists in the early nineteenth

century spent most of or a large part of their life studying and painting
abroad; Benjamin West, John Copley, Gilbert Stuart, and others being the
most famous expatriates. The roots of American art, founded in the
European academic traditions and teaching, were forged by the wilderness
experience and the American ability to make do or invent what did not exist.
The early nineteenth century was the heyday of American
portraiture, when a portrait in the home was as essential as furniture.
American artists, wrote Svinin, were particularly able in portrait painting,
being constantly in demand and well paid. He considered the aging Gilbert
Stuart, who gained his fame producing paintings of George Washington, the
best of the portraitists. Every American citizen felt it was his duty to display
a painting of Washington and his portraits were as revered in American
homes as icons were in Russia. Stuart, in fact, intended his Washington
portraits as icons of a sort. Stuart was in such demand that wealthy citizens
clamored to have him paint their portrait, paying one hundred dollars for the
privilege, regardless of the quality. These portraits came to be known as
Stuarts hundred dollar notes.8 Svinin was impressed with Stuarts ability to
paint not only the appearance of a man but to convey on canvas the very
inner essence of his subject. Because he possessed an extraordinary visual
memory, Stuart was able to paint a portrait after only seeing his subject
twice. Among Stuarts subjects was a portrait of Svinins superior, the Consul
General Andrei de Dashkov.9
Another popular variation of portraiture, Svinin observed, was the
miniature, although he didnt have much good to say about any of the
miniature painters. He considered only two worthy of mentionBenjamin
Trott of Philadelphia and Joseph Wood of New York, whose miniatures sold
for $60 each.10 Even then Svinin was critical of the colors and artistic ability.

According to Svinin, Benjamin West was the very best in the field of
historical painting, another popular American art form. Svinin was
particularly impressed with Wests painting "William Penns Treaty with the
Indians, painted in 1681, now in Philadelphias Independence Hall.
He considered John Trumbull next in importance to West, although
he didnt have much to say about him. He believed younger artists like
Thomas Sully and John Vanderlyn had promise. Previously a portrait
painter, Sully followed West to London and studied with him there. He
returned a promising historical painter. Vanderlyn, on the other hand,
studied in Paris and returned to become a fine landscape painter.
Svinins assessments of the famous Peale family makes history
question his judgment as an art critic. He found Charles Wilson Peale and
his sons "wretched painters." The sons were all named after great artists,
(Rembrandt, Raphaelle, Titian and Ruebens) "as if it were enough to bear
the name of a celebrity in order to acquire his merits," said Svinin.11
Svinin did allow that at least one of Rembrandt Peales paintings
had merit. "Filial Piety" (or "the Roman daughter"), was shown at the
Pennsylvania Academy Second Annual Exhibit of 1812 (along with Svinins
work). Svinin claimed that the painting was a copy of an original he had seen
in Paris. William Dunlap, writing in 1834 on the fine arts in America during
that period said that "a man named Svemin [sic], Russian vice-consul,
asserted that the picture was a copy..." Svinin, because of his diplomatic
standing and importance in the community, was believed and Peale judged
an imposter. When Peale learned of the accusation, he and Thomas Sully
called on "Svemin" who backed down, and allowed that he could have been

The episode was not to Svinins credit and did nothing to help his
credibility, which began to go downhill from the time he left the United
States and returned to Russia. This lack of credibility, stemming from
incidents and inaccuracies like this, was partly responsible for his later fall
from grace.
Svinin dismissed landscape painters altogether, saying there was not
a single master in this field, although he did admire a few American
watercolor landscapes. In contrast he found that graphic arts in America
were very strong. Engraving was particularly highly developed. Svinin
considered David Edwin and George Murray of Philadelphia the best
copper-plate engravers in America.
Bridges were the best examples of American architecture, but Svinin
did not have much good to say about any other works. He found American
homes poorly built and monotonous. "Almost all private residences in
American are built on the same plan. Having seen one house, you may
confidently say that you know them all... briefly, English architecture
prevails here throughout."13
Svinin considered the Bank of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia the only
public building worth mentioning, although he erroneously described the
Banks columns as Doric when they are in fact Corinthian. It is interesting to
read his low opinion of American architecture, since so many of his paintings
feature backgrounds of buildings in the city of Philadelphia and they are
rendered very well, as if he found them quite beautiful.
The last part of the essay is a discussion of American sculpture,
which he concluded is in its infancy. It amounted to nothing much more than
marble slabs for fireplaces, porches, window sills and funeral monuments
and wooden figureheads for ships. Svinin, with his penchant for

generalizations, completely ignores such works right in Philadelphia as the
bronze of William Penn in the Pennsylvania Hospital and the marble statute
of Benjamin Franklin, although Italian, in the Library named after him.
"A Glance at the Liberal Arts in America" concludes with several
pages about the Pennsylvania Academy of Art and its amazingly rapid
growth, accompanied by a painting of Academy.
This association was founded in 1805, and already the following
year a building for the Academy was erected and at the same time its
statutes were sanctioned by the Government. In this case, too, the
country has proved that it is making rapid strides toward enlightenment
and will soon be abreast of the most illustrious European Powers [sic].
It is hard to believe that in so short a time it is possible to make such a
striking collection of pictures (as the one possessed by the Academy)14
Founded by a group of American artists led by Charles Wilson
Peale, the Academys Articles of Agreement were
to promote the cultivation of the Fine Arts in the United States of
America, by introducing correct and elegant copies from works of the
first masters in sculpture and painting and by thus facilitating the access
to such standards, and also by occasionally conferring moderate but
honorable premiums, and other wise assisting the studies and exciting
the efforts of the artists gradually to unfold and enlighten and invigorate
the talents of our countrymen.15
The Academy opened its doors in 1807, but not many artists could
be pursuaded to join, feeling that the Academy was to be more of a museum
than a place for artists. There were a number of artists societies in
Philadelphia at that time. One national group, "The Society of Artists of the
United States", formed in 1810, soon merged with the Academy. By 1811 the
two organizations, now known as The Pennsylvania Academy, presented its
first exhibit. The exhibiting artists were predominantly those living in the
Philadelphia area. Very few artists outside the area sent works because of
distance, transportation problems and a general lack of interest. Works of
some contemporary European artists were shown. Most of it, however, was

work purchased by the American dealers traveling through Europe looking
for art for resale in America.
Svinin was an exception. Not only was he, a foreigner, a member of
the Academy, his physical presence in Philadelphia made his work available
to show. Sales at these early shows were virtually nonexistent. Americans
were not buying. They preferred to engage a portrait painter for themselves,
if they could afford it, rather than buy pictures from a show. So what did not
sell went back to the artist.16
About the second annual exhibition of 1812, Svinin has this to say:
The exposition this year consisted for the most part of works by
native Artists, while last year the majority of the exhibits were works by
foreigners and old masters, lent to the Academy by private persons. On
both occasions as many as 500 items were exhibited. It is noticeable
that every year American Artists are improving, and at the last
exhibition there were works which would truly confer honor upon
illustrious European Academicians.17
The Final Years
For twelve years Svinin edited and published Otechestvennyia
Zapiski, writing on many subjects, including physics, medicine, biographies,
historical romances, a description of St. Petersburg18 and a guide to a
Moscow museum. He also dabbled in Russian history (see Epilogue letters),
archeology, ethnography, folklore, science and the mechanical arts.
Svinin did not abandon his interest in the arts during these busy
journalistic years. By 1827 he was an Associate-at-Large of the Academy of
Fine Arts in St. Petersburg and a member of the Moscow Society of Lovers
of Russian Letters and the Academy of Sciences.19

On December 19,1828, Svinin became engaged to marry Nadejda
Appollonovna Maikova, daughter of the well-known Russian poet and writer
Appollon Maikov. They would marry in early 1829. He writes of his
engagement and his hopes to be admitted to service in the Interior Ministry
in a series of letters to his good friend at court, Count (and General) Arsenij
Andreevitch Zakrevsky, soon to become Tsar Nicholas Is Minister of
Internal Affairs. In a series of letters exchanged between the two (see
Epilogue for the fully translated letters), Svinins friend turns a deaf ear to
his plea for a job at the Ministry.
By this time Svinin had developed a reputation among his fellow
writers for not checking the accuracy of his facts and inventing or
appropriating descriptions of faraway places and passing them off as his own.
To Pushkin and other writers of the time, he was a joke.20 Perhaps the
pressures of publishing his own magazine caused Svinin to sacrifice his
intellectual integrity and scholarly competence. His political flexibility was
also suspect. Svinin changed politics according to the current regime and did
not seem to have the firm convictions and enthusiasms of his youth.
By 1830 Svinin was forced to stop publishing the magazine for lack
of money and support.21 He even tried to sell his art collection, acquired
throughout his many travels. After leaving Otechestvennyia Zapiski, Svinin,
virtually bankrupt, retired to his country estate in the province of Kostroma .
There he continued to write articles for Russian periodicals and published
two (unnamed) novels.
Svinin died in 1839, shortly after publishing a new book, Kartiny
Rossii i byt raznoplemennykh yeya narodov (A Picture of Russia and the
Lifestyles of Her Varied Tribes of People). The book, illustrated with Svinins
watercolors, is an ethnological description of Russia and one of Svinins most

important accomplishments. The illustrations are reported to be of the same
high quality of his American watercolors.22 This survey of his native land was
to be in several volumes, but due to Svinins death only one volume was
completed. At the time of his death, Svinin was working on his most
ambitious project-a history of Peter the Great, the man who had the same
kind of energy and enterprise he admired in Americans.
After Svinin died he was completely forgotten. His paintings and
writings were not to resurface until the early part of the twentieth century
when Dr. Yarmolinsky attempted to rescue him from obscurity.
On a small scale Paul Svinin was a universal man-multi-talented,
open-minded and liberal as a young man and always the interested observer.
Pushkins contemporary, although not of his caliber, Svinin made significant
contributions as a writer. Traveling to every important city in the world at
that time, he became friends and acquaintances with many famous men
making history in the early nineteenth century.
As a writer his work about the United States greatly influenced a
wide circle of the reading public at a time when other visitors to the new
nation were not always enthusiastic.
As a diplomat Svinin performed more than the narrow diplomatic
and consular functions. He was, in a sense, an ambassador of culture who
helped encourage early social and literary ties between the Russian and
American people.
As an artist, Svinin's watercolors are fine examples of the medium at
its best. They are colorful, but soft and transparent, with a freshness that
belies the fact that the paintings were done almost 200 years ago. He was a
fine example of the amateur Russian painter at a time when watercolor was
growing in popularity. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Arts 1942

acquisition of Svinins American watercolors brings some measure of
importance to this versatile and interesting man.23 The collection is
important, not only for its historical record of Federalist America, but also as
the work of an artist of unusual perception and sensitivity. His anecdotal
approach to art was well suited to graphic journalism. Reporting for a alien
but curious audience, he caught a likeness of the American scene overlooked
by other reporting artists of the time.
Svinin was but a small moment in history, but one to be

iYarmolinsky, Avraham, Picturesque United States of America.
1811,1812,1813. being A Memoir on Paul Svinin. Russian Diplomatic
Officer. Artist and Author (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1930), p.44.
2Bolkhovitinov, Nikolai N., The Beginnings of Russian-American
Relations. 1774-1815. translated by Elena Levin (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1975) p.438. In 1833 Count Sergei Uvarov,
Minister of Public Enlightenment, systemized the theory of Russian
autocracy with his doctrine of Official Nationality, in an attempt to move
away from western influence.
3Bolkhovitinov, p.438.
4Yarmolinsky, p.32.
5Ibid., p.33.
7Saint-Gaudens, Homer, The American Artist and His Times (New
York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1941), p.32.
8Eliot, Alexander, Three Hundred Years of American Painting
(New York: Time Incorporated, 1957), p.39
9Yarmolinsky, p.35. Svinins opinion of this portrait is not known.
uWhite, D. Fedotoff, "A Russian Sketches Philadelphia, 1811-1813,"
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (January, 1951), p. 23.
12The entire episode is reported in detail in Avraham Yarmolinskys
book, p. 39. William Dunlap, 1766-1839 was a well-known artist himself, who
in 1783 at the age of 17, painted George Washington. He studied in London
under Benjamin West. Dunlap published History of the Arts of Design, the
earliest comprehensive survey of American art, in 1834.
13Yarmolinsky, p.39.
14Ibid., p. 42.
15Rutledge, Anna Wells, The Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine
Arts, 1807-1870. "Cumulative Record of Exhibition Catalogues"
(Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, Independence Square,
1955) p. 1
16Sheryl Liebold, Catalog Archivist, The Pennsylvania Academy, per
telephone conversation, December 1988. She felt that in Svinins case the
originals undoubtedly were sent back to Russia and probably lost within the

U.S.S.R. There has been no trace ofthem since. Unfortunately the catalog
from The Second Annual Exhibit is missing from the Academy archives, but
proof of Svinins participation is found in an Index by Artist (with a listing of
the exhibited paintings) in the Rutledge paper, p. 225.
17Yarmolinsky, p.43.
18Ibid., p.44. Svinins book about St. Petersburg is mentioned in a
letter to Sergei Semenovitch dated 1826 (courtesy of the State Historical
Museum, Moscow, Russia, 1989)
19White, p.24.
20Abroad in America: Visitors to a New Nation. 1776-1914. Edited
by Marc Pachter and Frances Wein (Washington D.C.: Addison-Wesley
Publishing Company in asociation with the National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, 1976), p. 21.
21White, p. 24. The magazine evenutally continued under someone
^Feld, Stuart P., "Two Hundred Years of Watercolor Painting in
America," Antiques, Vol. 90, December, 1966 (New York: Straight
Enterprises,) p. 840.

In preparation for this thesis, I sent inquiries to libraries and
museums, particularly in Russia, for information about Svinin. Since most
available published information deals with Svinins sojourn in the United
States, it was difficult to find material about him before and after his
American experience. I was very gratified at the response from Russia,
especially letters written by Svinin to friends, and published here for the first
time. The letters,1 written between 1826 and 1832, give some insight into
Svinins last decade, as he struggled to maintain his credibility amid the
growing contempt of his peers.
Svinin, busy writing about St. Petersburg in 1826, found it very
frustrating to do research and appealed to his friend Sergei Semenovitch
(last name unknown), who apparently had some connection with the Asian
Museum in St. Petersburg.
Dear Sergei Semenovitch,
On having started a composition of the sixth part of a description of
St. Petersburg and its environs, I have requested several times of your
Excellency an order that will allow me to see the Asian Museum library,
archives, and other objects of interest there.
Please do me the favor of handing the order to my courier, trusting
to my feelings of profound respect and devotion.