Fyodor Aleksandrovich Vasiliev
oil on canvas
53.5 x 107.0 cm
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Vasiliev’s world-view was not far removed from that of Romanticism. By aspiring to express strong feelings, the artist was attempting to depict the complex metamorphoses of the sky, as well as spectacular and unusual states of nature: the tension before a storm or the thaw in midwinter. The painting uses the warm range of gold, brown and olive colours that the painter loved so dearly; the look is almost monochromatic. The work, which is characterized by complex relationships among the colours, was admired by Vasiliev’s contemporaries because of the carefully chosen colours and refined execution. The horizontal composition of the painting accentuates the silent and interminable nature of the valley landscape. Two solitary travellers have stopped, hesitant, in the middle of the road, before a large expanse of melted snow near a stream. They appear to be lost in the sad winter space of Central Russia, a space that is overwhelming because of its immensity. A tentative sunbeam, which seems to be blessing the travellers on their forlorn journey, breaks through a dense cover of grey cloud. This painting was purchased by P.M. Tretyakov, and a copy was commissioned by Emperor Alexander III for the Russian Museum.