Pyotr Vasilievich Basin studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts under Vasily Shebuyev. After graduating, he spent the next eleven years in Rome on a fellowship, which he was given for his painting of Christ driving the money changers from the Temple. While there, he created almost 100 works.
Upon his return to Saint Petersburg in 1830, he was made an Academician for his portrayal of Socrates saving Alcibiades. The painting itself required some saving, as the ship carrying it from Rome was wrecked, causing water damage, and it had to be reconstructed on its arrival. After that, he began teaching and was appointed a Professor in 1836, a position he held until 1869 when he became a Professor Emeritus and State Councilor. He lost his eyesight in 1870.
During the time he was a Professor, he created numerous portraits and allegorical scenes for the restoration of the Winter Palace after the disastrous fire in 1837, but his religious works are the most familiar. They include forty paintings and icons for Saint Isaac's Cathedral.
Pyotr Vasilievich Basin is mentioned in a story ("The Artist") by Taras Shevchenko. His best-known student was Nikolai Ge.