Mikhail Tikhanov Gallery

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The Legacy of Mikhail Tikhanov

 King Kamehameha
King Kamehameha
 Boki and Hekili on the Kamchatka
Boki and Hekili on the Kamchatka
 Boki, Chief of Oahu, and Hekili, Minister of the Navy
Boki, Chief of Oahu, and Hekili, Minister of the Navy
 A young girl from the Sandwich Islands
A young girl from the Sandwich Islands
 Brahmin
Brahmin
 Sitka Island Chief Katlian With His Wife
Sitka Island Chief Katlian With His Wife
 Alexandr Andreyevich Baranov
Alexandr Andreyevich Baranov
 Balthasar, resident of Northern California
Balthasar, resident of Northern California

The great Russian artist Mikhail Tikhanov traveled along the Pacific Rim in 1817 and represented many men and women in the Pacific Northwest during that time. Thanks to his work, which is currently preserved in the Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, we are able to see the faces of many notable figures of history, who’s exploits and antagonisms would eventually shape the Pacific Northwest into the land we live in today.

During his two years at sea Tikhanov produced more than 43 watercolour portraits portraying life, and particularly political life, across the Pacific. Although a novice painter, there is a clear unevenness in proportions and several paintings show signs of revision, Tikhanov's incredible ability to capture not merely the physical features, but the personality of his subjects, the minute expressions of their eyes and face, earns him a place among the greatest artists of his time. It's in these portraits that we see the natural genius of Mikhail Tikhanov. As the voyage progresses, there is a gradual shift in style away from academic-realism (see "The Shooting of the Russian Patriots"), towards heavily exaggerated proportions ("Kamehameha I") and facial features ("Malay Islanders of Luciona - Arey and Thomas"). These haunting portraits of the Pacific Northwest are the earliest and in many cases the only depictions of life along the Pacific Northwest in the 1800s.

Despite having the support of the Russian government, prints of Mikhail Tikhanov's work where delayed, lost, and forgotten shortly after his return. It was not until 1971 that an incomplete collection of his work, featuring 22 prints, was first published in Russia. Several later books about Tikhanov has unearthed further works from him, and a collection of his water colours are on display at the Moscow Museum of Art. We have managed to find digital scans of most of his work, to provide access for the public and preserve them for future generations, but at least ten paintings remain missing. Portraits are grouped by location, and catalogued chronologically based on Captain Vasily Golovnin's account of the voyage.


An Incomplete Collection of Artwork by Mikhail Tikhanov


An Indian in Manila tore Tikhanov's hat off and ran away | 1819

An Indian in Manila tore Tikhanov's hat off and ran away by Mikhail Tikhanov 1819

This painting, titled "An Indian in Manila tore Tikhanov's hat off and ran away" is the only image we have of Tikhanov, of whom no other portraits or photographs can be found. In it Tikhanov stands with his fist raised in indignation after a thief in a Manila market grabbed his hat. The thief is seen running around the corner.

Having toured the Northern Pacific, Tikhanov became seriously ill on his return voyage through the Philippines. As a result of this illness, which affected his mind, he spent the rest of his life on disability and drifting in and out of hospitals and sanitariums. After arriving in Russia, Tikhanov never produced another painting, and died in poverty with most of his work unpublished.