© 2011, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, At the School Door, 1897
Oil on canvas
State Russian Museum
The works of Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, who belonged to the younger generation of the Peredvizhniki, are distinguished by their sharp realism and precise knowledge of rural life. But they display none of the focus on rural poverty and social ills that was characteristic of the first generation of Peredvizhnik painters, which sought to arouse the viewer’s conscience and compassion. Bogdanov-Belsky himself came from a peasant background, but he sought instead to highlight in his subjects their creativity and curiosity, their internal and physical allure. Most frequently the characters that peopled his canvases were village children, students at the school in the village of Tatev in Smolensk Province, where he had himself once studied – At the School Door is typical of this approach. Bogdanov-Belsky was a connoisseur of the nuances of child psychology, as he shows here. We do not see the boy’s face, but his highly expressive posture eloquently conveys his mixture of fear and curiosity. For this young student the door really is one that opens into a new, unknown world, suffused with the light of education and hope of finding a worthy place in life.
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