The painting “Thaw” by Fyodor Vasiliev

Fedor Vasiliev. Painting Thaw, 1871
Fedor Vasiliev. Painting Thaw, 1871

The Thaw is a painting by Fyodor Alexandrovich Vasilyev, a remarkable 19th century Russian artist, inspired by a trip to the Volga. The viewer is presented with a typical Russian landscape. The center of the picture is occupied by a group of frozen trees, a figurine of a man, a little girl, who points with her hand at the birds that have flocked to the thawed patches, and a river partially freed from ice.

A horizontal oval with a dynamic plot enclosed in it is visually formed. A stationary external background is created by bushes, a distant forest, a squat strong hut, and settled dirty snow. Despite the gloomy gray clouds, the author created an amazing sky. It doesn’t seem formidable. The upper right corner lets in light, which hits the ground in irregular stripes. The sun is not visible, but its presence is felt thanks to light golden spots and contrasting shadows. It seems to say behind the scenes: “Wait, spring will come soon.”

Title of the painting: “Thaw”.
Author: Fedor Vasiliev (1850-1873).
Year of writing: 1871.
Size: 53.5 x 107 cm.
Style: Realism.
Genre: Landscape.
Technique: Oil painting.
Material: Canvas.
Location: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Fyodor Alexandrovich Vasiliev, a wonderful Russian landscape painter, lived a short but eventful life.

“The Thaw” is considered the most lyrical of his works, although it played a fatal role in the fate of the author. Painting in the open air, observing the changes in nature at the end of winter, the artist caught a bad cold and fell ill with tuberculosis. He died two years later. Contemporaries mentioned the amazing ability to work of the young painter. Before realizing his plan, he devoted many hours to sketches. The main work was preceded by a black-and-white auxiliary sketch of the same name, created from the impressions of winter travels in the Volga villages.

The painting “Thaw” by Fyodor Vasiliev is a work that played a fatal role in the life of a Russian painter

In the State Tretyakov Gallery, a sketch on cardboard has been preserved, which is conventionally considered a preliminary version and is called “Winter”. It depicts a woman with a girl, there is much more sun, dense snow lies.

Thoroughly considering the final version, Fyodor Vasiliev created another preliminary sketch, on canvas, with oil paints. In this picture of nature, all the features of the future masterpiece are conditional, but the theme of expectation of spring changes can be traced in the brown thawed patches that mark the road.

All sketches are characteristic of the artist’s work. They trace a scrupulous search for a unique sample that will allow you to express the main idea. Not surprisingly, contemporaries liked the final version. For him, Vasiliev received the first prize from the Society for the Encouragement of Artists. Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich ordered an author’s copy, which was kept in the Anichkov Palace, and in 1872 she visited an exhibition in London, where it was highly appreciated by foreign art connoisseurs.

The painting “Thaw” by Fyodor Vasiliev is paradoxically described by art critics. It is generally accepted that its plot evokes the dismal hopelessness of the gloomy life of the Russian countryside. And yet she is very optimistic. Winter is coming to an end, the frosts have subsided, the sun is breaking through the clouds. On the landscape of an early departed author – life itself, with its endless spring renewal.

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