Kramskoy – “A peasant with a bridle”
The portrait of Mina Moiseyev is included in a number of paintings in which Kramskoy depicted folk types. In the realistic tradition of the 19th century, it was customary to typify folk portraits. That is, each individual character represented a certain type of people. A whole encyclopedia of types of Russian life was presented by Repin in his “Procession of the Cross”.
Kramskoy adhered to democratic views, in his youth – even radical ones, it was he who organized the exit of the 14 most talented students from the Academy of Arts, organized the Artel of Artists, and later became one of the organizers and ideologists of the Association of Traveling Exhibitions. With ideological views it is clear, but what about painting? Contrary to the idea that might arise from his social activities, Kramskoy’s muse is not accusatory. His folk types simply live their lives, and do not point out to society its shortcomings. The artist does not use them for didactic purposes, but simply shows them, and, it seems, even admires them. Moreover, Kramskoy’s worldview very much allowed didactics, but it did not penetrate into his work. Mina Moiseev is one of the most successful folk characters of Kramskoy. The sketch for the painting was painted from life. Kramskoy met such a charming peasant at the Siverskaya station near St. Petersburg, where the artist had a dacha.
“Peasant with a Bridle” – a canvas more monumental than the previous study. At first glance, Mina may seem like a decrepit old man, but, looking closely, we notice a powerful figure from which a tattered Armenian falls in wide folds, like a royal robe, and the reliability of strong hands resting on a staff, and a crafty, good-natured, filled with inner strength, calmness and wisdom look from under shaggy eyebrows.
Kramskoy did not often pay close attention to the clothes, focusing on the faces of the portrayed, but in this case, a spacious blue shirt, and a fleecy gray coat, and a horse harness hanging from Mina Moiseyev’s hand were carefully painted with admiration.
It is obvious that the one depicted is sympathetic to the author. Researchers often compare the image of Mina Moiseev with the image of Leo Tolstoy. A warm, soft light illuminates the peasant’s face, especially against a dark background.
Year of painting: 1883.
Dimensions of the painting: 125 × 93 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Gallery: National Museum “Kiev Art Gallery”, Kiev, Ukraine.