Vasily Surikov was the foremost Russian painter of large-scale historical subjects. His major pieces are among the best-known paintings in Russia. In his canvases Surikov dealt with many dramatic episodes of Russian history such as the reformation of the church in the mid 17th century and Peter the Great's reforms of the 18th century. In Surikov's own time, the late 19th century, there were numerous flashbacks to those events in Russia. The Russian people were the main characters of Surikov’s works and courage and daring were the artist's principal subject matters. In his paintings, Surikov always focused on fine portraiture. His female images are particularly elaborate and masterful. Surikov was a master of monumental historical compositions, depicting national tragedies and powerful human characters. He executed only nine historical canvases out of hundreds of portraits, studies, and sketches but that canvases are really monumental paintings.