Kramskoy – “Reading”

The year 1863 was marked for the painter Kramskoy not only by the creation of a group of artists around himself who refused to paint according to the subject academic canons, which would soon be called “Itinerants”, but also by his marriage to Sofya Nikolaevna Prokhorova.

The testimonies of the master’s contemporaries have survived, which confirm that this marriage was happy and harmonious. Kramskoy carried love, respect and tenderness to his wife-muse throughout his life, having given birth to six children, of whom only four lived until adulthood.

The special relationship in the family led to the fact that often its members often became heroes of Kramskoy’s paintings. The artist loved to paint his wife, and the most famous canvas dedicated to Sophia Kramskoy is the portrait “Reading”.

The picture belongs to the early period of creativity, but already here many characteristic features can be traced that will distinguish the style of the master in the future.

A young woman in a beautiful dress appears before the viewer. She bent over a large book, propping her high forehead with her hand, her gaze focused and her posture relaxed. Surprisingly, we do not see her gaze, which can tell a lot about a person, but, nevertheless, we guess the character of the heroine. Kramskoy wanted to show her tender, sensual, soft – the way he loved her. However, the image is not devoid of a sense of dignity and great inner strength.

The picture is very harmoniously solved – we find the main character in a garden or a park on a stone bench, and the background image is dominated by dark tones, which makes the person portrayed in a luxurious white dress seem to “glow” against a dark background. At the same time, the brightest streak of light lay on her calm face. To depict his wife, Kramskoy chose pastel pencils – it is this technique that gives the portrait softness, plasticity and tenderness.

Spouses Kramskoy lived together all their lives, until the artist’s death. Sofya Nikolaevna outlived her talented husband by 32 years.

Year of painting: 1863.

Dimensions of the painting: 64.5 x 56 cm.

Material: canvas.

Writing technique: oil.

Genre: portrait.

Style: realism.

Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

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