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Portraits of Russian writers in the Tretyakov Gallery

В Третьяковской галерее хранится портрет гения русской мысли и мировой литературы Льва Николаевича Толстого работы художника Крамского (the Tretyakov Gallery is home to the portrait of the genius of the Russian thought and world literature Leo Tolstoy from this artist I. N. Kramsoi). In this portrait, the man with dark hair and dark eyes look at us in his peasant shirt. It seems that his looks penetrate into our very soul, and can read all our secrets.

The history of his creation is interesting.

In summer 1873, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov learned that the famous painter Ivan Kramskoi lived in a remote cottage not far from the estate of Leo Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana. He wrote to the artist and asked him to persuade Tolstoy to pose for a portrait. Было решено, что Крамской одновременно напишет два портрета (it was agreed that Kramskoi would make two portrait simultaneously). One would remain in the estate of the great writer, and the other will be hanged in the Tretyakov Gallery. The contrast between the simple appearance of the writer and his keen intellect struck Kramsky. Tolstoy also go interested in the artist. He felt a deep, clear mind and an unusual talent into the painter.

After Kramskoi, many Russian artists made a portrait of Tolstoy: Gue, Yaroshenko, Nesterov, Repin. A whole gallery was created with the numerous image of the famous writer. But still, the portrait painted by Kramskoi is один из самых замечательных по глубине понимания внутреннего мира писателя (one of the most remarkable in the depth of understanding of the inner world of the writer). Simple, with no external effects, Kramskoi was able to show the main feature of Tolstoy the writer and the man, his humility. In this portrait, there is nothing of the count, but everything that Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy sought all his life.

There is also another portrait of the famous Russian writer and poet, Alexander Sergeyevich Puskin at the Tretyakov Gallery. How the living poet looked alive? Which one of his portraits is the closest to the real man? Which one of them can be trusted? The answer depends of each of us, who read, studied, loved the work of Pushkin, who is interested in his personality. According to the description of contemporaries, A. Pushkin was a man of small stature, but quite strong, with quick scrutinising eyes. According to Pushkin own brother, Leo, in his childhood, he had blond, curly hair, blue mocking eyes and a lovely smile. And according to the writer Pogodin, Pushkin as an adult had dark hair, a lively look in his eye and a soft, pleasant voice.

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For 200 years, artists have painted many portraits of Pushkin, but the most famous remains the portrait from O. Kiprensky, made in 1827 from nature. Contemporaries claimed that this portrait was similar to what Pushkin looked like during his life. Bulgarin, the well-known literary critic of the 19th century stated: “Это – живой Пушкин” (this is a living Pushkin). The poet himself has given Kiprensky’s portrait this assessment: “Себя, как в зеркале, я вижу, но это зеркало мне льстит…” (I see myself as in a mirror, but this mirror is flattering me…).

Евгения Плещунова