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In the history of classical Russian painting, there are many mysterious and amazing episodes that allow us to speak of the existence of paintings with a "mysterious reputation". This list includes several works by the famous itinerant artist Ivan Kramskoy. Most of the legends are associated with his painting "Mermaids".
Prehistory of creationThe painting was created by Kramskoy based on the story of N. V. Gogol's "May Night or the Drowned Woman". Kramskoy painted a mysterious canvas in the village of Khoten, Chernigov province in the summer of 1871, and in 1872 made some changes to it twice. This is a kind of remake of Gogol's literature, inspired by which the artist reflected the mysterious beauty of the moonlit night and the harmony of man and nature. Kramskoy rather freely interpreted the dream of the protagonist Levko, focusing not on the plot, but on the image of a magical moonlit night.
This topic turned out to be very unexpected and new for the realist artist. The master was very fond of Gogol and re-read all of his works many times. Kramskoy sincerely wanted to convey the very atmosphere of the May night, to immerse the viewer in the mysterious world of Ukrainian folklore. The appearance of such a work by Kramskoy is not accidental. At that time in art, interest in traditional Russian culture and traditions was actively growing. So, before the viewer appears the bank of the river overgrown and strewn with logs, on which a picturesque group of mermaids peacefully sits.
PlotNight, dark time of the day. The heroines stand out brightly and contrastingly against the background of the dark night. These are 19 mermaids, who, according to Slavic mythology, were river or lake spirits. They appeared at night in the form of young women. Some myths describe mermaids as spirits who died unbaptized or unmarried and drowned as a result of unrequited love. At night, the spirits of the mermaids came out of the water to sing and dance. In European culture, there is an analogue to the Slavic myths about mermaids - these are sirens that fascinated young people before luring them to the very bottom of the river.
Most of the women were huddled together. Others are on the edge of the coast, one mermaid stands alone on the right, apparently, she is immersed in her thoughts. On the left, in the foreground, another Kramskoy mermaid crawls out of the reeds, and in the background one of the women squeezes water out of her hair. It seems that the mermaids are even enveloped by a light glow (very similar to Kuindzhi, isn't it?). The glow adds mystery to this mythological plot. Their slender figures are illuminated by the full moon, which makes them even more surreal and even fabulous. But the faces of the girls are sad and dreary. The waterfront is located at the foot of a steep hill and is surrounded by dense forest. A dilapidated house is visible in the background. The general coloring of the picture is interesting: calm and at the same time gloomy, mysterious thanks to the moonlight and at the same time somewhat scary.
Painting presentationCritics agreed that the work was successfully completed by Kramskoy. "So, we are tired of all these gray peasants, clumsy village women, drunken officials … We like the look of the work." Thus, the picture made the most pleasant, refreshing impression on the public. However, the positive result ended there. And mysticism began.
Painting mysticismWhile working on the painting, the artist was haunted by one situation. The theme of the canvas - ghosts and the other world - was called very dangerous. Many of Kramskoy's contemporaries seriously believed that Gogol's plots drive artists crazy. “I am glad that with such a plot I did not finally break my neck, and if I didn’t catch the moon, then something fantastic came out,” said Kramskoy.
At the first exhibition of "Peredvizhniki" "Mermaids" by I. Kramskoy were located next to the painting by A. Savrasov "The Rooks Have Arrived". At night, the second job suddenly dropped. At first, the situation was turned into a joke. Allegedly, mermaids do not like being around rooks. However, soon there was no time for jokes. After the exhibition, Tretyakov acquired both paintings for his gallery. The Rooks were hung in the office, but for a long time they could not find a suitable place for the Mermaids, hanging the picture from hall to hall, from room to room. At one time, in the hall, where they decided to hang "May Night", at night the gallery staff heard light singing and even felt cool. Not inclined to mysticism, Tretyakov did not believe the rumors, but once he himself drew attention to the fact that he felt tired if he was next to Kramskoy's canvas for too long. Visitors to the gallery also complained that it was impossible to look at this painting for a long time. And soon there were rumors that the young ladies, who had watched the Mermaids for a long time, were going crazy. One, allegedly, even drowned in the Yauza. Of course, there was no convincing evidence of the relationship of the incidents with the picture. But one day, an assistant who lived in the Tretyakov family advised me to move the painting to the far corner of the gallery so that no light fell on it during the day. In her traditional opinion, "The sun is hard for the mermaids, so they cannot" calm down. " Tretyakov, far from superstition, nevertheless heeded the advice. Marvelous! But since then, visitors to the gallery have not complained about Kramskoy's work.
Yes, Kramskoy wrote a fantastic work! It seems as if the plot is his dream, which he saw the night before, and in the morning he reflected on the canvas. Kramskoy was clearly fascinated by the world of Ukrainian folk tales with their mystical plots (devils, witches, mermaids). The canvas fully conveys the artist's desire to reflect the beauty of the fabulous Ukrainian night, as well as his sympathy for the unfortunate mermaids, who so tragically ended their young earthly existence. And the moonlight, the invisible hero of the work, is really very romantic and harmoniously fits into the night atmosphere.