1873 - 1963
Maria Nikolaevna Yelgashtina was born in 1873 in Barnaul into a wealthy family of Davidovich-Nashchiskiys. Her father Nikolay Andreevich was the first mayor of Barnaul. Her mother Louisa Petrovna (née Thompson) had graduated from the Smolny Institute and encouraged her daughter’s interest in arts in every way possible. For a while the family lived in Paris, and Maria had a French governess. From 1892 to 1894, she studied at the Stroganov School for Technical Drawing (now Russian State Stroganov University of Industry and Applied Arts).

In 1899 and from 1903 to 1905 Maria Nikolaevna lived in Plyos. At the turn of the century, this was the dream town for Russian landscape artists. Here, Yelgashtina met a well-known painter and teacher at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, Aleksey Ivanovich Korin. Maria Nikolaevna was drawn by Korin’s smaller and slower sketches, the modest and lyrical quality of his painting, which later transferred into her own artistic practice.
Later, Maria Nikolaevna married Ivan Semyonovich Yelgashtin, the director of the Imperial Stables in Siberia. The family lived by the stud farm that effectively was located in the steppe. They had two daughters and a son. When the children grew old enough to go to school, the family moved to the city.

Since 1906, Maria Nikolaevna Yelgashtina lived and worked in Ufa, where she taught painting at the house of Medicine professor Dmitry Ivanovich Tatarinov and staged her puppet shows. In 1913, she organized the Ufa Society of Painting Enthusiasts together with Aleksandr Tyulkin and Anatoly Lezhnyov. On March 11, 1914, the club’s charter was established. Effectively, the club’s activities began in 1916 when they organized their first exhibition. No works by Yelgashtina or any other pre-revolution Ufa artists survived.
The futurist artist and poet David Burliuk heavily influenced the club as his bright manner of painting drew the local artists. Maria Nikolaevna helped him show his new works and was excited to see his popularity among her fellow artists, but stayed true to her quiet and lyrical method herself.

In 1919-1929, she participated in organizing the Art Museum and compiling the museum library.

From the early 1930s, Maria Nikolaevna’s interests were focused on organizing a children’s theater. In 1922, the newly established Bashkir State Drama Theater was given the building of the Aksakov People’s House (Palace of Labor and Arts). Maria Nikolaevna suggested organizing a children’s theater there as well. Thus, in 1932, the first puppet theater in Ufa was opened. Maria Nikolaevna worked there as the artistic director, set designer, director, and actor until 1955. During World War II, she traveled to the frontline with her company.

In 1955, Maria Nikolaevna left the theater and focused on painting, taking part in exhibitions more frequently, painting from life, while also sitting on the board of the Artists Union.

Yelgashtina’s last artworks are dated to 1963—the same year when she had her second personal exhibition. She was 90 years old. In 1996, at the age of 93, she passed away.