Why was Vasnetsov's "Alyonushka" originally called "a fool", or Fantastic and real in the famous picture
Why was Vasnetsov's "Alyonushka" originally called "a fool", or Fantastic and real in the famous picture
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Viktor Vasnetsov. Alyonushka, 1881. Fragment

Despite the fact that the most popular work Viktor Vasnetsov was written based on a Russian folk tale, painting "Alyonushka" not a simple illustration. The artist pursued a different goal - not so much to recreate a well-known plot, but to "revive" the fairy-tale character, to make the image close and understandable, to organically fit into the surrounding nature, to create a psychologically accurate portrait of the heroine.

Viktor Vasnetsov. Self-portrait

Vasnetsov confessed to Roerich that Alyonushka was his favorite work. He began painting in the summer of 1881 in Akhtyrka, near Abramtsevo, the estate of Savva Mamontov, where the best artists of that time gathered. And he finished work in the winter in Moscow, where the artist often attended musical evenings at the Tretyakovs - perhaps this is one of the reasons that the picture came out so lyrical.

A. Kuindzhi. Portrait of V. Vasnetsov

An old sundress with faded flowers, disheveled hair, rough bare feet in Alyonushka give out not an abstract fairy-tale character, but a very real girl from the people. Although in the facial features many guessed a resemblance to the daughter of Savva Mamontov Vera - the one who posed for Serov for "Girl with Peaches", all other details indicate that the prototype of the heroine was a peasant woman. Vasnetsov saw her in Akhtyrka, where he was at that time.

Viktor Vasnetsov. Sketches for the painting "Alyonushka", 1881

This version is confirmed by the words of the artist himself: “The picture seemed to have lived in my head for a long time, but I really saw it when I met one simple-haired girl. There was so much melancholy, loneliness and purely Russian sadness in her eyes … a special Russian spirit exuded from her."

Viktor Vasnetsov. Pond in Akhtyrka. Alenushkin pond, 1880

Initially, Vasnetsov called the painting "Fool Alyonushka", but there is nothing offensive or ironic about the artist's attitude to his heroine. The fact is that the word "fool" in those days was called holy fools or orphans. Let's remember a fairy tale - after the death of their parents, Alyonushka and her brother Ivanushka are left alone, and desperate to find a naughty brother, Alyonushka feels like an orphan, lonely and abandoned. Some critics insisted that this is not a fabulous image, but the embodiment of the orphan lot of poor peasant women, which could be found in every village.

Viktor Vasnetsov. Alyonushka, 1881

The artist creates the general mood with the help of precise landscape details: the quiet autumn wilting of nature, a dark pool at the feet of Alyonushka, muted tones, a gray sky in clouds, fallen leaves on the shore and in the water seem to emphasize the melancholy and hopelessness on the heroine's face. At the same time, the landscape cannot be called conventional or abstract - it is the recognizable nature of central Russia.

Pond near the Mamontovs' estate in Abramtsevo

It was one of the first paintings in the history of Russian painting, where the inner experiences of a person were transmitted through a subtly reproduced state of nature. Considering that the picture was created based on a fairy tale, this is quite justified - psychological parallelism is inherent in many works of oral folk art.

Alenushkin pond in Akhtyrka

The creation of the picture was preceded by the writing of a series of sketches that have survived to this day. By them we can judge the evolution of the artist's creative concept. The fact that the picture captures a very specific landscape is evidenced by the works "Alenushkin Pond" and "Pond in Akhtyrka", which recreate a forest and a pond in the vicinity of Akhtyrka.

Apollinary Vasnetsov. Akhtyrka. Manor view, 1894

At the end of the 19th century, when the picture was painted, no one could even suspect what would happen soon to many artists who were staying at the estate in Abramtsevo, and how will the fate of the "girl with peaches" - Vera Mamontova.

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