Architect Pyotr Pavlovich Fetisov: From St Petersburg to Zagreb

* * Originally published in Russian language in: Сохранение памятников изобразительного искусства и культуры. Исследования и реставрация. Материалы III Международной научно-практической конференции: Санкт-Петербург, 16–19 ноября 2018 г. / Институт имени И.Е.Репина; науч. ред. Ю.Г.Бобров; сост. А.И.Шаманькова. СПб.: Чистый лист, 2019. С. 365-369.

Architect, art historian, archaeologist and professor Pyotr Pavlovich Fetisov (1877, Moscow – 1926, Zagreb) made a remarkable career in the Russian Empire. After the October Revolution he moved to Zagreb, where he continued his career. The article presents an overview of his life and professional activities in the Russian Empire and in emigration.

Keywords: Pyotr Pavlovich Fetisov; Peter Paul Fetissoff; Petar Fetisov; architect; emigration; St Petersburg; Zagreb.

During the 1920’s numerous emigrants from Russia arrived to Zagreb (during that time part of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). Emigrant artists have left an important mark in the development of cinema, theatre, painting, architecture and other aspects of culture in Zagreb and Croatia. The figure of the architect, Muscovite Pyotr Pavlovich Fetisov, stands out among them. He came to Zagreb with an impressive creative background behind him, and actively continued here his activities, but special literature rarely mentions his name. The article presents the results of a study of the life and work of Pyotr Fetisov.

Pyotr Fetisov was born in 1877 in Moscow. In 1900, he received a first-class diploma with the title of civil engineer at the Institute of Civil Engineers of Emperor Nicholas I in St. Petersburg, and then was called up for military service [1]. In 1902, he became a supernumerary technician in the construction Department of the Moscow Provincial Board. In the same year, he entered the architectural Department of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg [1]. Fetisov graduated from the Academy in 1906[1] in the first category with the title of architect-artist [1]. After graduation, the Commission of the Imperial Academy of Sciences sent him to London to prepare for a professorship. [1] At the British Museum, he passed his exams and courses in the history of classical art, ancient Oriental art, and Islamic art, while working as an assistant to the head of the Department of Oriental antiquities [1]. In London, he took part in the VII International Congress of Architects [1].

On his return to Russia in 1908, Fetisov was invited to teach architecture and lead architectural drawing and design at the Saint Petersburg Polytechnic Institute [1]. In the same year, Pyotr Pavlovich took part in the organization of the International Construction and Art Exhibition in St. Petersburg, which was organized by the Society of Civil Engineers. Fetisov was the head of the Department of Artistic Decoration of Homes and Decoration of Buildings Inside and Outside and was a member of the Commission for Entertainment [29, p. 5-16].

Official publication “Izvestiya” of Society of Civil Engineers, also in 1908, published his “drawings from the travel album” [see: 30]. In 1909, he was sent to the University of Munich, where he attended courses on Islamic art and the art of the Middle ages, attended a number of seminars and wrote a thesis “The Influence of Arab culture on European Science and Art” [1].

After returning to Russia, from 1909 to 1914 Fetisov worked as a professor of architecture and art history and as a mentor of architectural design at the courses of The Society for the Promotion of Arts in St. Petersburg, at the Women’s Polytechnic Institute, the Institute of Civil Engineers of Emperor Nicholas I, and the Polytechnic Institute of Emperor Peter I [1]. In the summer of the same years, he made scientific expeditions to Central Asia to study art monuments [1]. In 1909, he became an honorary member of the Moscow Archaeological Institute [1]. Fetisov has repeatedly published sketches of Russian churches. In the yearbook of Society of Architects-Artists he published drawings of the Pokrovsky monastery in Suzdal and the Moscow Church of St. Clement, the Pope [4, p. 102]. The magazine “Zodchiy” published drawings of the Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist in Suzdal [7, p. 242], the Church in Yuriev-Polsky (Vladimir province) [8, p. 274], the windows of the church against the gates of the monastery in Suzdal [9, p. 362], the bell tower in the courtyard of the monastery in Yuriev-Polsky [10, p. 401] and the eastern gate of the Rizopolozhensky monastery in Suzdal [10, p. 405].

Together with L. L. Hojnowski P. P. Fetisov designed the Khrennikov’s house in Ekaterinoslav [36]. Construction of the house began in October 1910, and ended in the fall of 1913. The house is built in the Art Nouveau style, with the influence of folk architecture. In the middle of the XX century, during the occupation of the city, the house was burned down. The building was later restored, but not exactly in accordance with the original design [36].

Fetisov’s publications in 1910: in the In the yearbook of Society of Architects-Artists –  watercolor “Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Kadashi. Moscow” [5, p. 135], and in the magazine “Zodchiy” drawings “Entrance to the monastery of Yuriev-Polsky” [11, p. 485], “Suzdal. The church at the western gate of the convent fence” [11, p. 489], “the bell tower of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin in Suzdal” [11, p. 491], “the tower of the Don monastery in Moscow” [12, p. 514] and ” Samarkand. Near Khoja-Ahrar” [13, p. 535].

The following year, Pyotr Pavlovich took part in a competition for the project of a church in addition to the Polytechnic Institute. Only professors of the Institute were allowed to participate in the competition. The project of the architect I. V. Padlevsky won [2].

P. P. Fetisov: Bell Tower, Saints Cosmas and Damian Church in Nizhny Novgorod

During 1911, the magazine “Zodchiy” published drawings “Entrance to the abolished monastery in Suzdal” [14, p. 55], “Gate of the Nikolo-Korelsky monastery” [15, p. 334] and “Trinity monastery in Murom” [16, p. 473]. In 1912 drawings of the portal of St. Michael’s Church in Munich [17, p.459], the entrance to the building of the Moscow Archaeological Society [18, p. 526] and the former Markushevsky monastery [18, p. 528] were printed. In December 1913, magazine “Iskra” published a photo report on the expedition of P. P. Fetisov and his colleagues to Central Asia. The task of the expedition was to document plans, draw and photograph monuments: “The expedition obtained extremely valuable material. It put a lot of work and energy, working sometimes at 60-degree temperature on the Reomur in the sun, often in the desert, without necessary items, with scant supplies of water and food” [34, p. 380]. In the same year, the yearbook of Society of Architects-Artists published two watercolors by Fetisov: “The church of the abolished Resurrection monastery in Uglich. “Yarosl[avskaya] Gub[erniya]” [6, p. 183] and “’Shell’ grotto (XVIII century) in Kuskovo at the es[tate] of the count[s] Sheremetev, near Moscow” [6, p. 184]. Also published in the “Zodchiy” magazine is Fetisov’s article “Plans of ancient Babylon” [37] and five drawings: a portrait of a musician with a traditional instrument of Central Asia [19, p. 159], the Church of St. John Chrysostom in Yaroslavl [20, p. 170], the bell tower of the Church of Kozma and Damian in Nizhny Novgorod on the cover of № 21 [21, p. 243], the dome of the Stroganov Church in Nizhny Novgorod [22, p. 524] and the detail of the Moscow Kremlin [23, p. 528].

At the 5th All-Russian Congress of Architects in December 1913, Pyotr Pavlovich showed his project, most likely the project of the Khrennikov house in Ekaterinoslavl [32]. The critic G. K. Lukomsky wrote reviews about the Congress in the magazines “Zodchiy” and “Apollon”, in which he rated Fetisov’s building “in the Ukrainian style” as “terrifying” [32, p. 145; 33, p. 45].

In 1914, Fetisov became secretary of The Society for the Study of Asia[2] [1]. Fetisov’s article “Stand for the Koran of the Babi-Khanym mosque in Samarkand” was featured on the cover page of the “Zodchiy” magazine № 10 that same year [38]. In the same issue, an article about Fetisov’s exhibition and lecture at the Imperial society of St. Petersburg Architects was published. The topic of the lecture was “Architectural monuments of the Timurid era in Samarkand”, and the exhibition showed works representing the results of three expeditions to Central Asia – in 1907, 1911 and 1913 [39].

At the beginning of the First World War, Fetisov volunteered for the army and went to Ukraine [1]. At this time, the magazine “Zodchiy” published his drawings of Kiev monuments: “The Church of Basil the Great on Perun hill”, “St. Sofia spiritual school” [24, p. 472], ” Podol. Samson’s well”, ” Golden gate. Mikhailovsk[iy] monastery” [24, p. 473] and “Chur[ch] of Nicholas the Good” [25, p. 486]. In 1915 drawings of Kiev monuments were published: “St. Sofia old gate” [26, p. 18], “Monument of the baptism of Rus” [27, p. 291], “E[x] Dominican monastery on Podol” [27, p. 291] and “the Church of the Nativity” [27, p. 291]. During Fetisov’s stay in Ukraine, postcards based on his drawings of architectural monuments of Ukraine were also published.

In 1916 the construction of the church for the fallen in the war designed by Fetisov began at the Bratsk cemetery in Kiev [29]. Project was designed in Neo-Russian and Art Nouveau style. The first stone was laid by Empress Maria Feodorovna, mother of Emperor Nicholas II [29]. The construction of the temple was never completed.

In 1917 Fetisov was invited as a professor and mentor at The Kiev University Archaeological Institute and Kiev Higher Art School [1]. In 1918, he joined the Denikin volunteer army [1]. In the end of 1919, he became seriously ill, which caused him to be dismissed from the service and evacuated to Serbia [1]. In the first half of 1920, he moved to Zagreb and began working in the Architectural Department of the Technical Higher School, first as an assistant to professor Edo Šen at lectures on architectural forms of the Ancient world, and later independently read these lectures [41]. Since 1922, Pyotr Pavlovich also taught art history of the Ancient world, and in the same year he received the title of associate professor [41].

P. P. Fetisov: Saint Dismas Church, Zagreb, around 1920

Fetisov’s watercolors of Zagreb’s architectural monuments were published as a series of postcards named “From the Old Zagreb”. Author of the Fetisov’s obituary in the Belgrade emigrant newspaper “Novoye Vremya” wrote about the postcards: “In these drawings, according to the local press, he opened the eyes of Zagreb residents to artistic values that no one had previously paid attention to” [35, p. 2]. Fetisov, as a foreigner, could not get an architect’s license in Zagreb. This means that he could work on projects, but could not put his signature on them. “Traditionally” attributed Fetisov[3] are the facade of the Yugoslav Bank[4] on the corner of Jelačić square and Praška street, the facade of the building for the company National Timber Industry[5] on the Mažuranić square done in the Atelier Fišer and the facade of the building company Factory of Tannins and Steam Saw Našice[6] at the corner of Marulić square anf Vukotinovića street done in the Atelier of Carnelutti [42, p. 118]. Since there are no signatures on these projects, attribution is still a difficult issue. Pyotr Pavlovich Fetisov died on November 5, 1926 in Zagreb and was buried at the Mirogoj cemetery [42, p. 118]. The grave was not preserved.


[1] Sources interpret Fetisov’s period of study at the Academy differently. In a personal biography written in 1920, which is kept in the archive of the Faculty of Architecture of the University in Zagreb, Fetisov reports that he studied at the Academy in the period 1902-1906 [1]. The Kondakov reference work on the history of Academy lists the years 1902-1907.  On the other hand, the same book says that for those who graduated from the Institute of Civil Engineers, the course of study at the Academy was shorter than for others [31, p. 59].

[2] It is not clear from the sources which exactly society this refers to. Probably the Asian section of The Imperial Russian Geographical Society or the Imperial Moscow Archaeological Society.

[3] Sources for attributions are the memoirs of the architect Zvonimir Vrkljan and Fetisov’s obituaries in the press. Zvonimir Vrklyan became a student at the Architectural Department of the Technical Higher School in 1920, and received a diploma in 1924 [40]. Since 1925, he worked as an assistant at the Technical Higher School [42, p. 117; 40] and at the Fišer Atelier. Fetisov’s obituary in the “Novoye Vremya” newspaper also attributes the facade of the Esplanade Hotel to Fetisov [35].

[4] Croatian: Jugoslavenska banka.

[5] Croatian: Narodna šumska industrija.

[6] Croatian: Našička tvornica tanina i paropila.


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