Anna Petrovna Ostroumova-Lebedeva studied at the Academy of Arts of Saint Petersburg from 1892 to 1900, most notably at the workshops of the famous realistic “travelling” painter Ilya Repin and renowned engraver Vasily Mate. In 1899 she became closely involved in the creation of the Mir iskusstva (“World of Art”) group and eponymous magazine, founded by Diaghilev and Alexandre Benois, and showed her work at all the exhibitions organised by the collective between 1900 and 1906. In the early 1900s she travelled to Italy, Spain, and France. Diaghilev featured 29 of her woodcuts at his “Russian art exhibition” at the Autumn Salon of 1906. That same year, her work was also shown at the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow and in Odessa at the first Salon of the World Fair, a travelling event that stopped in several cities of the Russian Empire. Her works were acquired by museums in Rome, Paris, Prague, Dresden, and Berlin.
She also painted a large number of watercolours depicting views of Italy, Holland, Belgium, and Spain. After the 1917 revolutions, Ostroumova-Lebedeva continued to work tirelessly at her engraving, drawing, and watercolour painting. She began teaching at the Academy of Photography and Photographic Techniques in 1918 before directing it temporarily. In 1922 she published a collection of 12 original lithographs of the Leningrad (then Petrograd) cityscape. The following year, Alexandre Benois published a monograph about her. She continued to live in her hometown under German siege during World War II, from September 1941 to January 1944. Her whole life through, she never ceased to produce watercolours, drawings, and a few oil paintings, all of which prominently featured the essential source of her art: the landscapes of the “Palmyra of the North”, to which her coloured or monochromatic engravings are a wonderful tribute. These engravings show a great economy of means: a subtle balance of black and white, shadow and light; a limited use of three or four colours; a syncopated directing of lines to create atmosphere. She also used sites in the Caucasus, Venice, and various regions of Russia as models. Ostroumova-Lebedeva is the quintessential representative of Mir iskusstva’s modernist style, which thoroughly reinvented Russian art following the “travellers’” wave of political realism in the second half of the 19th century.