(b St Petersburg, 1729; d Moscow, 1802).
Russian painter and teacher. He came from a family of serfs, belonging to the Counts Sheremetev, that produced several painters and architects. In about 1746–7 he was a pupil of Georg Christoph Grooth (1716–49), who painted portraits of the Sheremetev family. With Grooth, Argunov worked on the decoration of the court church at Tsarskoye Selo (now Pushkin). A full-length icon of St John of Damascus (1749; Pushkin, Pal.–Mus.), in Rococo style, is distinguished by its secular, decorative character. The Dying Cleopatra (1750; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.) is typical of Rococo decorative painting of the mid-18th century, with its striking combination of light, soft tones. Argunov subsequently painted in a quite different style, mainly producing portraits, of which about 60 are known. Among the first of these are pendant portraits of Ivan Lobanov-Rostovsky and his wife (1750 and 1754; St Petersburg, Rus. Mus.), in which the sitters are idealized, as in ceremonial court portraits. The colour schemes of the two portraits are complementary, a device Argunov was to favour, and the feel of materials is admirably rendered. A certain flatness and stiffness in the figures recalls the old tradition of ...