Alexander Volkov is a modern day master of realism. He’s most widely known for the clarity of vision which drives his creations and the interplay of light that brings each piece alive. He has a particular fondness for the American countryside and much of his portfolio over the past 30 years has featured this. His realistic landscape paintings are some of the most captivating representations of rural America you’re likely to come across.
Volkov lives in Frenchtown, NJ with his wife and business partner Heidi Breyer. They’re parents to five adult children.
Early Life in Russia
Volkov was born in St. Petersburg — formerly Leningrad — in Russia in 1960. From the age of seven to 17, he attended a special English school. He started painting when he was in high school using oil — his primary medium to this day. This continued while he studied at the Department of Physics at Leningrad State University, where he graduated from in 1986. Following graduation, Volkov worked for a time as an animator at the Leningrad Studio of Science Films and later as a stage artist in a small theater in the city.
Around 1981, he began to exhibit some of his realistic landscape paintings with the Brotherhood of Experimental Arts, an “underground” art collective active in Leningrad at the time. Later on, he joined a breakaway group of some 30 artists called Ostrov or “Island.” These artists united together in the ideology that their work was neither socialist realism nor extreme avant garde.
In 1989 he immigrated to the U.S. In a stark break from the thrum and bustle of St. Petersburg he was used to, he chose to settle in rural America, which has been his home for over three decades. It’s these vistas that have fed his imagination and inspired his vast portfolio of realistic landscape paintings.
His Process and Inspirations
Volkov reluctantly refers to himself as “self-taught.” He believes that there is learning readily available all around you, should you want it; people, dead and alive, famous and unknown, and even things and events around you can be a source of learning if you’re willing to pay attention.
As an evolving artist, Volkov drew inspiration from a host of “teachers,” including Rembrandt, William Turner, Franz Hals, Vermeer, and many other past greats. He looked to Beethoven and Satie, Einstein and Tarkovsky, and Nabokov and Steinbeck. There were also the people he grew up with and those in his life, including school and university friends, professors, and struggling artists.
In addition to realistic landscape paintings, Alexander Volkov is also fascinated by architectural depictions and still-lifes. He brings drama and poetic expression to all of this work through his favored device — light.
The use of light features heavily throughout Volkov’s work. He skillfully lends mood and creates an atmosphere in his paintings through an interplay between light and darkness. The resulting artwork always feels like it has a story to tell and draws the viewer in.
“There is no greater mystery to me than the conflict of light and dark. In the way they clash and penetrate each other, there is the source of everything.”
A Look at Volkov’s Work
To give you a deeper insight into his method, we’ve featured select artwork from Volkov, including some of his original realistic landscape paintings as well as the result of his foray into a brand new medium.
Hunter’s Moon marks St. John’s Eve — the Summer Solstice, a magical time when spirits are said to come out of the ground and the water and join the festivities happening all around. The painting is also meant to convey stillness and serenity with the moon peeking through the trees and beautifully lighting up the glade and the lake. Volkov tries to create a mood where the viewer can absorb this sense of calm and quietude amidst the celebrations of the day.
This realistic landscape painting is an alla prima or a “first try.” The artist uses faster drying paints and larger brushes to lend deeper textures throughout the piece. Employing this method allows him to revisit the techniques of his youth and create works of art with more passion and intensity. This technique results in a more impressionistic aesthetic, a natural fit for Alexander Volkov’s realistic landscape paintings. Volkov’s alla prima works are usually not published as limited editions.
This is a special painting by Alexander Volkov. It shows the interior of a church in New Jersey, close to where he lives. While the church itself isn’t operational anymore, the local community wanted to find a way to save and preserve this place. Volkov created Locktown Sunset for a fundraiser that could be used to help this church. He spent hours inside this church by himself looking at how the light passed through the space and glanced off its walls. He was deeply struck by the harmony, beauty, and simplicity of the place. It seemed to him as if the church was a focal point in the world and while he was in there, nothing else existed but him and the church. The experience moved him and inspired him to create this piece.
Locktown Sunset bears all the hallmarks of a Volkov original, with the skilful rendition of light across the church’s surfaces and the atmosphere it creates. It’s one of his most recent works.
In a departure from his realistic landscape paintings and still lifes, Volkov explores the world of sculpture with Eternal Love, his debut piece. Amid the turmoil of 2020, Volkov turned 60. Those two events inspired him to finally act on his long-held desire to foray into sculpture. He felt it was a natural segue for his artistic expression.
Eternal Love is a sculpture of two hands reaching upwards together, capturing his evolution as a person on two fronts — as a husband and as an artist. It represents enduring hope, faith, and love for life, and symbolizes enduring human resilience in difficult times.
Volkov used a cast of his own hand as a muse. The sculpture’s hands are crafted from polymer clay infused with marble powder. The base is made from solid marble. The sculpture also features his signature interplay of light, its elements are positioned in a way so as to cast shadows at different angles of illumination.
Explore More Volkov Art at Marcus Ashley Gallery
Volkov’s portfolio is available in its entirety at Marcus Ashley Gallery. Browse more sculptures and realistic landscape paintings by Alexander Volkov. Discuss his work with our art consultants to get an even deeper insight into his process. Volkov is very open to collaboration and taking on commissions that help bring someone else’s vision to life.