Pavel Petrovitch Troubetzkoy was born on 15 February 1866 in Intra, son to the prince and Russian diplomat Pierre Troubetzkoy and the American pianist Ada Winans. Thanks to his parents, who love to host artists and man of letters in their inner circle, Pavel becomes passionate for art and studies sculpture with Daniele Ranzoni. In 1884 he moved to Milan; here he mixes with the Scapigliatura followers, training with Ernesto Bazzaro at his studio, then as self-taught in his own studio. He started his long exhibitions activity by making his debut at Brera in 1886 with the sculpture Cavallo (Horse). From this point up to 1897 he took part in all the exhibitions promoted by the Accademia di Brera and the Società per le belle Arti e Esposizione Permanente.
In Milan, Troubetzkoy meets important figures such as Alfredo Catalani and Giacomo Puccini. In these years, he also paints several portraits; among others, it is worth remembering the one for Daniele Ranzoni (1890), Gabriele d’Annunzio (1892), Giovanni Segantini (1896), Lev Tolstoj (1899).
From 1895 up to 1934 he took part in nearly all editions of Biennale di Venezia, where he attracted the attention of the critic Vittorio Pica, who was enthusiast about him.
“Paolo Troubetzkoy, who is above all a wonderful animalist and an acute expert of human physiology, since his very first attempts, tried to search with praiseworthy passion for something new and modern, aiming not only at reproducing with excellent efficiency the expressive movement of faces but practically at giving the illusion of movement. So, he is an innovator and as such he created his own personal technique, a technique of impressionist of the sculpture...” (Pica 1897, pp. 259-260).
In 1896 he went to St. Petersburg and, from 1899 to 1906, he worked on the monument of Tsar Alexander III.
After nearly ten years passed between Finland and Pallanza, in 1921 he went back to Paris, but he spends all summers in Italy at Cà Bianca, where he goes on working on the World War I Memorial, dated 1922. In the same year, he also held his imposing solo exhibition with 37 plaster, bronze and marble sculptures at the Palazzo dell’Esposizione in Venice on the occasion of the XIII Biennale d’arte (Art Biennal). In 1932, Troubetzkoy finally moved to Cà Bianca, five years after his wife’s death. In the last years of his life he made many sculptures, including the one for Giacomo Puccini for the Teatro alla Scala and took part in many exhibitions in Italy, Spain, France and the USA.
Seriously ill with anaemia, he dies in Suna on 12 February 1938.
Troubetzkoy style is immediate, narrative, featured by a vibrant touch and rich of expressive softness.
His works portray the international high society world; the wonderful busts dedicated to his fellow countryman Lev Tolstoj, to Gabriele d’Annunzio, Arturo Toscanini, Enrico Caruso, George Bernard Shaw are memorable. Also the figures of dancers, maidens and children have entered the collective imagination.
His technique appears to be very fast and confident, created by precise “strokes” of the modelling tool that in few gestures nervously make the images. Images full of a moving melancholy and infinite tenderness that make Troubetzkoy – even considered by his contemporaries an artist working for his own pleasure, given his socio-economic status – one of the most fascinating and interesting sculptor of the period from the last decades of 19th century to the threshold of World War II, after which all scenarios will inevitably face a dramatic changes.