Mussorgsky had, by all accounts, a very short and unhappy life. He was destined for a career in the military from an early age, but by the time he was 19, having had some sort of emotional crisis, he resigned his army commission. He then joined The Five, a group of Russian composers concerned with writing distinctly nationalistic music. The other two more famous members of this group were Alexander Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. Like the other members of the group, Mussorgsky had to earn a living through other sources than music, and during his time in the civil service his life appears to have been its most comfortable. Most pictures show Mussorgsky with very ruddy cheeks. This was not the result of a healthy complexion or heavy Russian winters, but a consequence of his alcohol addiction. Having left the civil service in 1880, Mussorgsky died a desperate man from the result of alcoholic poisoning.
During his time, Mussorgsky and his music remained relatively unknown, with many of his works staying unfinished. Only after his death, with many of his pieces receiving reworkings by Rimsky-Korsakov, did Mussorgsky's music receive widespread critical acclaim. Many pieces are now performed in their original state again. It is the piano cycle Pictures at an Exhibition, inspired an exhibition of drawings by his friend Victor Hartman, that is the most instantly recognisable melody of Mussorgsky, especially in its orchestral arrangement by French composer Maurice Ravel.