Nikolai Kuznetsov might never have become an artist if it was not for the accident of one military commander’s illness. When Nikolai turned 26, he came to St. Petersburg to enter the Lancers of the Guard regiment. But the commander, baron Essen was sick, and Kuznetsov failed to receive his expected audience–something, however, about which he was not at all upset - he registered instead as an external student at the Academy of Arts. Everything came easily to this son of a large landowner from the Kherson region, with the exception of the exact sciences for which he had little aptitude. He even left school after sixth grade, and returning home, he was fascinated first by hunting, after taking up painting in all seriousness. Kuznetsov studied art first in Odessa, and later in St. Petersburg, where he was a non-resident student of the Imperial Academy of Arts. In his painting the artist is delicate and observant, which helped him to become a successful portraitist. Even in his lifetime Kuznetsov's works were reproduced on postcards. Kuznetsov often travelled abroad, where he studied and met contemporary artists whose paintings he bought. Soon after he opened his own private museum – he bought a plot of land, and built a gallery and a studio there. His collection featured paintings by some of his artist friends, including Ilya Repin, Valentin Serov, Ivan Kramskoi and Viktor Vasnetsov, and works by French artists from the Champs de Mars salon: Alexander, Del Amo, Cottet, de La Touche. Leonid Pasternak shared his memories of Kuznetsov: "Kuznetsov was a young and wealthy landowner, who owned a large estate approximately thirty miles outside Odessa, with a beautiful house, and a spacious art studio where the hospitable host and his guests – those comrades and friends of the artist who came to stay there – could paint together; staying there was fun, the hosts served hearty meals and they were very hospitable.'' An athlete and a joker, Kuznetsov seriously injured himself in a seemingly innocuous dispute with his friends. Showing off his prodigious strength, he lifted three people onto his shoulders, and severely sprained himself in the process. For a long time, the artist had to walk on crutches and paint sitting down.