Nikolai A. Melnikov
Nikolai A. Melnikov was born on December 13, 1846 in the city of Prague, (Czech Republic) to a son of an officer in the Russian Army. He chose a military career, studying at the Cadet Academy and later the Mikhailovsky Military Artillery Academy in Saint Peterburg, but he also studied art at Kramskoi's drawing school and at the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts.
In 1856 Nikolai along with his father, mother and a brother and sister emigrated to Russia.
In 1876 he became a leading artist of a special group of painters and was given the nickname, “the conscience”, because of his integrity and adherence to principles of art and life.
Melnikov retired as a Major General in 1892. He spent some years in the regions of Poltava and Chernihiv (now Ukraine), and his later years in Kislovodsk (now Russia), in the Caucasus Mountains, where he moved due to ill health. He died of phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis or consumption) on July 7 [,1911 and was buried there.
Melnikov painted many portraits, genre paintings, and drawings. His genre paintings depicted animals, the struggles of Russian life, fruit, bathing suits, and other landscaped themes he faced in the Russian Empire. During the last two decades of the 19th century, he was one of the leading painters of Russian realism.
In accordance to the will of his widow, Maria Pavlivna Melnikova, his (and her) art collection was bequeathed to the Poltava municipal art gallery in 1917. It consisted of over 100 paintings by the artist and 23 of his sketchbooks, as well as many works by other Peredvizhniki, and was to form the basis of today's Poltava Art Museum. Many of his works were acquired by Museums in Moscow and many remain in the State collections.