Victor Musatov was born in Saratov, Russia. His father was a minor railway official who had been born as a serf. In his childhood he suffered a spinal injury that made him humpbacked for the rest of his life. In 1884 he entered Saratov real school, where his skills as an artist were discovered by his teachers Fedor Vasiliev and Konovalov.
He was enrolled in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and design in 1890, transferring the next year to the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint-Petersburg, where he was a pupil of Pavel Chistyakov. The damp climate of Saint-Petersburg was not good for Victor's health and in 1893 he was forced to come back to Moscow and re-enroll to the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture.
His earlier works like May flowers, 1894 were labeled decadent by the school administration, which sharply criticized him for making no distinction between the girls and the apple trees in his quest for a decorative effect. The same works however were praised by his peers, who considered him to be the leader of the new art movement.
In 1895 Victor once again left Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture and enrolled in Fernand Cormon's school in Paris. He studied there for three years, returning in summer months to Saratov.
He was fascinated by the art of his French contemporaries, and especially by the paintings of "the father of French Symbolism" Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and by the work of Berthe Morisot.
Borisov-Musatov was a member of the Union of Russian Artists and one of the founders and the leader of the Moscow Association of Artists, a progressive artistic organization that brought together Pavel Kuznetsov, Peter Utkin, Alexander Matveyev, Martiros Saryan, Nikolai Sapunov, and Sergei Sudeikin.
The most famous painting of that time is The Pool, 1902. The painting depicts two most important women in his life: his sister, Yelena Musatova and his bride (later wife), artist Yelena Alexandrova. The people are woven into the landscape of an old park with a pond.
Another famous painting is The Phantoms. 1903 depicting ghosts on the steps of an old country manor. The painting was praised by the contemporary Symbolist poets Valery Bryusov and Andrey Bely.
In 1904 Borisov-Musatov had a very successful solo exhibition in a number of cities in Germany, and in the spring of 1905 he exhibited with Salon de la Society des Artistes Français and became a member of this society.
The last finished painting of Borisov-Musatov was Requiem. Devoted to the memory of Nadezhda Staniukovich, a close friend of the artist, the painting may indicate Borisov-Musatov's evolution towards the Neo-classical style.