Pavel Petrovich Svinin (also spelled Svin'in and Svinyin) was born in Russia on June 8, 1787 (O.S.). He attended the School for the Nobility and the Academy of Fine Arts in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
After entering the foreign service at the age of 18, Svinin was given the opportunity to travel around the world. In 1811, his travels brought him to the United States as the Secretary to the Russian Consul-General, based in Philadelphia.
Svinin traveled along the East Coast from Maine to Virginia, and possibly further. Along the way, he sketched the American landscape, painted watercolors, and wrote articles. He was fond of the similarities between the United States and his home country including tolerance for different religions. American steamboats and the public education system were also favorite subjects for the Russian diplomat.
Although he did not understand the system of political parties, Svinin admired the American form of government. In an article entitled "A Glance at the Republic of the United American States," Svinin made indirect reference to Thomas Jefferson's most famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence. "The Americans have shown themselves fully worthy of enjoying those rights of true liberty and happiness," Svinin wrote, "the first foundation of the spirit of their government, which ... excels in this respect all the ancient and modern republics."1
Pavel Svinin left the United States in June of 1813. Following his travels, he published his memoirs and watercolors, in addition to other illustrations from his American visit. His watercolors included images of Natural Bridge and Niagara Falls. A large collection of Svinin's work can be seen at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City.