Losenko, Antin [Лосенко, Антін], b 10 August 1737 in Hlukhiv, Nizhyn regiment, Hetman state, d 4 December 1773 in Saint Petersburg. Painter; a leading exponent of historical painting in the classicist style. He studied in the Hlukhiv Singing School and was brought to Saint Petersburg to sing in the imperial court choir in the late 1740s. After his voice changed, he was sent to study art under Ivan Argunov (1753–8) and at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts (1758–60). Recognized for his exceptional talent, Losenko was promised a bursary to study in Paris where he arrived in 1760 and studied under Jean II Restout, but his stay there was cut short in 1762 when the imperial bureaucrats failed to send him his promised stipend. In Paris Losenko painted his first masterpiece The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1762). In 1766–9 Losenko studied in Rome where he became particularly interested in Rafael’s paintings and where he painted, among others, Cain (1768) and Abel (1769). After he was awarded several medals from the Paris Academy of Arts, Losenko’s achievements were also recognized in Saint Petersburg. He became a member of and professor at the Saint Petersburg Academy in 1770, served as its director (1772–3), and wrote its textbook on human proportions (1772). The prominent French sculptor Étienne Falconet considered Losenko to be ‘the first great painter of his nation.’
Losenko’s oeuvre includes paintings on biblical and mythological themes, such as, Abraham's Sacrifice (1765), Zeus and Themis (1769), and Hector's Parting with Andromache (1773); paintings on historical themes, such as The Holy Apostle Andrew (1769) and Grand Prince Volodymyr and Rohnida (1770); portraits of prominent personalities; a self-portrait; and approximately 200 drawings of nude figures and parts of the body, which were held up as models of excellence to students at the academy for many years, but most of which have, unfortunately, been lost or destroyed in the academy.
Losenko introduced to the art of the Russian Empire the classicist pompier style of painting and was the first painter to depict in this style, in addition to the traditional mythological and biblical motifs, also themes from the history of Kyivan Rus’ (in his paiting of Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great and Rohinda). He influenced the work of several artists, including Ivan Akimov, Mikhail Kozlovsky, Petr Sokolov, and Grigori Ugriumov. Most of his works are preserved at the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow. Only his Abel is housed in Ukraine, in the Kharkiv Art Museum. Books about him have been written by A. Kaganovich (1963) and E. Gavrilova (1977).
Marko Robert Stech
[This article was updated in 2011.]