To my surprise, I discovered that I have not yet written about that genius of Russian Naturalism -- Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy (1837-1887) except for a Sermon on Canvas about his painting Christ in the Wilderness.
Kramskoy was a native of central European Russia born into a lower-middle class family. He was educated at the Imperial Fine Arts Academy. Kramskoy painted as an Academic, but rejected the rigidly-enforced Neoclassical subject norms of the Russian Academy. He believed that Russian art should not exist for its own sake, but to serve the cause of social and democratic reform. He organized artists to advance the cause of democracy in Russia.
Peasant Holding a Bridle (1887) at the Museum of Russian Art in Kiev. Looks like a photograph, doesn't it? Right down to the veins and tendons on this man's hands. And notice how the light is depicted perfectly, glistening off the man's beard. The Neoclassical norms from which Kramskoy rebelled would never have considered this beautiful.
If you're an artist and you want your bling bling, then you've got to paint portraits. This is Portrait of Actor Vasily Samoilov (1881) at the Tretyakov.