(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 parsun (semi-iconic)