Fedor Pavlovich Reshetnikov. Painting Death of Chelyuskin, 1973

Painting The death of Chelyuskin by Fyodor Reshetnikov

Fedor Pavlovich Reshetnikov. Painting Death of Chelyuskin, 1973
Fedor Pavlovich Reshetnikov. Painting Death of Chelyuskin, 1973

Painting The death of Chelyuskin by Fyodor Reshetnikov – the idea of ​​unity in the struggle for life

“The death of” Chelyuskin “is a famous painting by Fedor Reshetnikov, written by him in 1973. The plot is based on the real tragedy of 1934 – the wreck of the steamer” Chelyuskin “in the Chukchi Sea.

On February 13, the ship was heavily trapped in ice and sank within two hours. The members of the expedition, including Reshetnikov, evacuated to the Arctic ice. For almost two months people lived in polar winter conditions, fought for life and steadfastly waited for salvation. The artist captured the most intense moment of the disaster on canvas.

Description of the picture

In horror at the inevitability of what is happening, men, women and children urgently leave the ship, trying to take the maximum of things and food. Everyone understands that without supplies they will not be able to survive in the ice for a day. The author was able to solve the composition problem with only one color. The foreground is occupied by a “human avalanche”, as if rushing through the hole in the ship. Most of the background is completely captured by the reared ice, which literally swallowed the Chelyuskin.

We do not see the faces of the expedition participants, the emotionality of the moment is transmitted through the actions and postures of people. Surprisingly, there is no panic in the figures, the shipwrecked do not flee and do not despair. Having rallied, they save the children, help their comrades, remove the load. The viewer sees strong-minded people who are ready to fight for life to the end. The artist managed to recreate in the picture the tragedy of the event and the heroism of the participants who managed to resist the primitive force of nature.

Author: Fedor Pavlovich Reshetnikov (1906-1988).
Year of writing: 1973
Style: Socialist Realism.
Genre: Historical.
Technique: Oil.
Material: Canvas.
Location: Regional Art Museum, Samara.

About the artist

Fyodor Reshetnikov is a Soviet artist, portrait painter, an excellent master of painting and graphics, the author of many satirical and expressive cartoons. One of the main representatives of the direction of socialist realism. The author’s manner of writing is distinguished by the sharpness of characteristics and deep penetration into the human essence.

The painting “The Death of” Chelyuskin “became an expression of personal impressions from participation in the famous cruise along the Northern Sea Route. During the entire journey, including moments of life on a drifting ice floe, Reshetnikov made numerous sketches from nature. After the rescue, these works instantly became popular and glorified the author throughout the USSR.

The painting itself was painted by the artist only in 1973, 40 years after the famous events. According to the creator himself, he needed time to improve the writing technology, to achieve the ideal skill for the embodiment of a full-scale plot.


Unlike other works of the author, here the faces and figures of people are drawn somewhat schematically. Thus, Reshetnikov emphasizes that salvation is possible only if we act together, all together. The main thing is solidarity and camaraderie. Traditional motives for socialist realism 60-70 years of the XX century. The painting “The Death of” Chelyuskin “was a masterpiece completion of the” Chelyuskin epic “. For the modern viewer, Reshetnikov’s work is a kind of window into the history of the Soviet state, an excursion into the life of almost a century ago.