Vasily was born on the 14th of October 1842 in the town of Cherepovets to a wealthy landowner. At the age of nine, Vereshchagin was enrolled in to the St. Petersburg military academy (Санкт петербургский Кадетский корпус), and graduated in 1860 at eighteen. During that time he sailed on the Frigate “Kamchatka” to France, Denmark and England. His last years at the academy had given him an interest in art. Immediately after graduation, Vasily enrolled himself into the St. Petersburg academy of Arts. There he was taught the style of late classicism. His first major work “Ulysses Slaying the Suitors of Penelope” earned him the minor silver medal in his academy. Vasily however, was not satisfied.
In 1863, he destroyed the work and enrolled in the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Much to his dissatisfaction, the academy taught a similar art style. Disappointed, Vasily became a traveller of sorts to “study the living annals of our world’s history” as he put it. In 1867, Vasily volunteered in the Russian army so he could tour Turkestan and have a chance at experiencing the effects of war. He later participated in the defense of Samarkand. His experiences in the army gave him a realistic view of war, he strove to recreate this in his art as best he could, this meant depicting his nation’s defeats as well. This angered some of his commanders, later forcing him to destroy a part of his works.
Shortly after, Vereshchagin made trips to India, Syria, and Palestine where he made a series of works based on the new testament. However when he returned to exhibit them, the paintings were banned in many countries as Vereshchagin’s depiction of the lord Jesus Christ was overly semitic in nature. In what would seem his final tour of the world, the artist visited Manchuria, the Philippines, and in 1903, Japan. The following year on April 13, the painter died in the midst of the Russo-Japanese War, onboard the Battleship Petropavlovsk during it’s sinking. Vereshchagin is often remembered for his criticism of war, sometimes falling out of favor in the eyes of Russian rulers. This is reflected in many of his works, showing a morbid but honest depiction of war.
See more of Vereshchagin’s work here: