Fedor Zakharov was born to a peasant family in 1919 in the village of Alexandrovskoye in the Smolensk region. It was while he was still at school that his oldest brother Ivan and his art teacher noticed his precocious talent. Soon, they persuaded Fedors parents to allow their son to continue his education at an art specialized college. Starting in 1936 Zakharov studied at Kalinin Industrial Art College in Moscow. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Zakharov was drafted for military service at the front lines. However, due to weak eyesight, he was released from duty and assigned to serve in Moscow, where he created posters and drawings for the Red Armys war efforts. During this time, in 1943, Zakharov entered the Surikov State Art institute in Moscow from which he successfully graduated in 1950.
Zakharov discovered the Crimea and its rich, bright, multicolored nature had a great influence on him. At that time Zakharov decided to seriously devote himself to landscape painting. These first works of Zakharovs are naive, fresh, and often ornate--verging on over ornamentation. Soon, however he started using his palette with more variety, avoiding unnatural color contrasts. He worked hard perfecting this technique, often in plein air because he could not yet afford a studio. His small apartment was very close to the Black Sea. In all, he spent seven years there and during all of that time he worked on his paintings in the ports, on the beach, and sometimes in town. He created numerous landscape sketches depicting everything he saw and liked in great detail while maintaining compositional integrity. He worked almost every day, in all seasons and in any weather, never inventing subjects, always paying attention to the land and what it told him.
As Zakharov matured through the nineteen sixties his focus shifted. His style became even better at depicting the defining components of light and air. His strokes are larger, confident and contrasting softened with half shading. He painted on large canvases with a sweep and scale suggestive of having been painted in a single breath.
Not many painters achieve such distinction in their lifetime and the creative activity of Zakharov could not go unnoticed by the official authorities. In 1970 Zakharov was nominated as the Honored Painter of the Ukraine. In 1978 he was again honored, this time as the Peoples Painter of the Ukraine. He was also awarded the Red Banner of Labor and the Sign of Honor, distinctions which, in Soviet Russia, were the highest awards presented to regular citizens. In 1987 he was awarded the State Prize after Shevchenko. When taken into consideration, perhaps the most amazing fact about all of the awards Zakharov received in his lifetime is that all of these awards were given to Zakharov in spite of the fact that he had never followed the official USSR course in fine arts dogmatic style of socialist realism, never depicted in his works leaders of the Communist Party, and never allowed his art to be used as the instrument of ideological and party propaganda. He remained, throughout his career and his entire life, devoted to art, to his painting, and to the advancement of all painting in Russia. He is remembered today, throughout Russia, simply as one of the greatest painters of his time.