Иван Федорович Шультце (1877-1932) was born in St. Petersburg in 1877 to a family of German origin named Schultze. He was first trained by Constantin Krigitsky, a court painter to Tsar Nicholas II who painted miniatures and he made his debut at the Fine Art Academy in St. Petersburg in 1903. Choultsé’s work was well received and he continued to exhibit his work at other major galleries in St. Petersburg and Moscow and was eventually elected court painter himself. However, these were troubled times in Russia and after the Revolution of 1917 and the Tsar’s abdication, Choultsé left Russia and travelled to Europe.
This is probably due to his ties with the Tsar but also because the artistic climate in Russia during this period was difficult. Choultsé travelled to the Mediterranean and painted many summer landscapes but it was his sojourn to Switzerland which influenced the artist’s development. Whether it was because the snowy Swiss landscape reminded him of his native Russia or because he just fell in love with the monumental vistas of Engadine and St. Moritz, Choultsé was profoundly affected by what he saw there. He concentrated his efforts on studying the effects of light on nature and developed his best known themes of glorious snow-filled landscapes which are sparkling and vibrant. Eventually settling in Paris, Choultsé adopted the French transliteration of his name. He began to exhibit his work in the Salon des Artistes Français in 1923 and he had a very successful one-man show at the Galleries Gerald Freres. Exhibitions in London and New York followed and an article in The Times summarised the artist’s achievement by saying “it must be seen to be believed”.
In 1935 the Hammer Galleries held a jubilee exhibition of ‘150 Years of Russian Painting’ and described Choultsé’s reputation as “beloved among American collectors as a great master of snowy landscapes gilded by slanted sunbeams”. Other critics wrote that no other artist was ever as adept at transferring the texture of snow to canvas. G.Blair Laing, the Toronto dealer, wrote in his ‘Memoirs of an Art Dealer’ in 1979 that Choultsé “painted spectacular snow scenes in which light seems to come from behind the canvas and glow”. Ivan Choultsé never returned to Russia, although his work was always recognised there during his lifetime and subsequently actively sought after.