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For the Tretyakov gallery, Ivan Kramskoy commissioned a series of works in the portrait genre. Representatives of Russian culture needed to be depicted on canvases. It is no coincidence that M. Saltykov-Shchedrin, a man of great intellect, a writer of multi-genre literature, in particular, satirical accusatory works about events in Russian society, got on this list.
At first glance, the portrait of Shchedrin catches the eye with a clear contrast of the face and hands with the jacket, background and table on which the writer leans. Intentionally, Kramskoy illuminates with bright colors the expression on his face with detailed facial expressions and the interlocking of his hands, restless, tense. The indifferent soul of the thinker is read in these lines, his concern for the fate of the people and personal responsibility for it.
Work on the painting was started in the winter of 1877. Soon, the creation of the brush was ready for presentation to the public. But Tretyakov expressed a desire for the portrait to cover not only the head of Saltykov-Shchedrin, but also the brush, because in the initial version they were not. The portrait painter masterfully fulfilled the wish, and in 1879 the painting entered the gallery.
The figure of the writer is depicted in apparent complete calm, only in the look and in detail drawn in detail are the turbulent streams of a moving soul visible. The artist's goal was to show the image of a deeply thinking person. And along with other paintings in the portrait of Saltykov-Shchedrin, the task was successfully realized.
People familiar with the work of the writer will immediately recognize him on the canvas by their exacting gaze, indignation in his slightly shifted eyebrows and by his enormous spiritual strength. In the guise of a cultural figure, we see an understanding of life and an indestructible will. The great Russian publicist appears to the audience as a man who has devoted his whole personality and time to serving the public good.
Bogdanov Belsky Artist