Ivan Kramskoy. Painting Mermaids, 1871

Painting Mermaids by Ivan Kramskoy

Ivan Kramskoy. Painting Mermaids, 1871
Ivan Kramskoy. Painting Mermaids, 1871

“Mermaids” – a picture of the genre master of genre painting Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi, striking with a mysterious plot and gentle, refined and noble scale. The canvas depicts a neglected coast, where mermaid girls are located under the moonlight. Their figures are incorporeal, their pale faces are detached from the world around them.

Painting “Mermaids” by Ivan Kramskoy is a reflection of folk traditions and mystical beliefs of the Ukrainian people

The heroines are presented in a state of inner concentration, deep despair and endless sadness. Their silhouettes merge with flowers on the pond and coastal grass, with crowns of trees and bushes, with a low hill and an old hut on it. Maiden beauty is shown not in individual traits, but in the reflected twilight half-light. The poetry of the painting is due to the realistic landscape and the soft glow of the moon.

The central pictorial motif is accentuated by the luminous flux, while the background is submerged in shadow. The view of the countryside is painted gracefully and lightly: subtle shades, light transitions create a dramatic feeling. The even distribution of lighting inspires and grabs the audience’s attention. The artist also conveys the beauty of a fabulous night by mixing bluish and dark green colors. The muted natural flavor gives incredible charm to the Ukrainian nature.

Title of the painting: “Mermaids” (“Scene from” May Night “by Gogol”).
Author: Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy (1837-1887).
Year of writing: 1871
Size: 88 x 132 cm.
Style: Realism.
Genre: Landscape. Mythological scene.
Technique: Oil painting.
Material: Canvas.
Location: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy is an outstanding portrait painter,

master of historical painting of the 19th century, one of the founders of the “Association of Itinerants”, a talented art critic. Boldly experimenting in technical performance and compositional construction, the painter, being a representative of a new formation, turned in his work to the most acute social issues.

The story of Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol “May Night, or the Drowned Woman”, dedicated to the traditions of the Ukrainian people, had a huge influence on the painter. Initially, Kramskoy thought to create a cycle of works based on the book Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, but Mermaids (as the painting later became known as) was the only masterpiece of the master on this topic.

The artist did not set himself the goal of accurately reproducing the plot of an excerpt from Gogol’s work. He strove to share the emotions that he experienced while reading the story and creating sketches. Having interpreted the dream of the hero of the book in his own way, the painter concentrated on depicting Ukrainian nature. “A scene from Gogol’s May Night” – the author’s title of the work – was first exhibited in the fall of 1871 at the first exhibition of the Itinerants.

Then it was acquired by the merchant and founder of the art gallery Pavel Tretyakov.

The public’s interest in the masterpiece was caused not only by the genius of the performance, but also by mystical rumors. People said that from the room where the painting hung, splashing water and chants could be heard at night. And the young ladies, who looked at the mermaids for a long time, drowned themselves in the river or went crazy.

Painting by Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy: “Mermaids” – a masterpiece of world art. With the help of masterfully presented lighting, the artist managed to transform real nature into mythical one in an incomprehensible way. A finely selected palette, carefully painted female images and magical decorations cannot leave anyone indifferent.