Mikhail Nesterov. Enigmatic poet of Russian painting

Harmony Concord by Mikhail Nesterov 
The Russian Museum in St. Petersburg is hosting an exhibition of Mikhail Nesterov, devoted to the anniversary of the famous Russian painter. He will turn 150 in May. Nesterov is one of the most popular artists with collectors of Russian art.
A philosopher and a political writer Vasily Rozanov wrote about Nesterov: "He is one of the most beautiful, ascetically beautiful Russian people I’ve met in my entire life. I think he is an absolutely historical person. It’s impossible to forget spiritual energy radiating from his paintings. He created the "Nesterov style", and this style cannot be repeated."
The exhibition represents approximately two hundred paintings and graphic works from the collections of the Russian Museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery, and many other Russian museums and private collections. This is the biggest exhibition of the artist that has ever been arranged. It includes not only the classical works of the artist, but also Nesterov’s sketches to churche murals, that have never been exhibited before, and works of the Soviet period from  provincial museums and private collections.
The exhibition displays one of Mikhail Nesterov’s masterpieces - the painting "Vision of Young Bartholomew", which a well-known art critic Alexander Benois called "one of the most mysterious and poetic and beautiful paintings of the last decade of the XIX century". The painting is based on the story from “The Life of Sergii Radonezhsky" by Epiphanius the Wise, which tells about the meeting of the young Bartholomew, who subsequently became St. Sergius of Radonezh, the founder of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, with a mysterious old man.
When Bartholomew was seven years old, his parents sent him to learn reading and writing, but learning was difficult for the boy. One day Bartholomew met a hermit and asked the unknown old man to show him the way to learning, and received his blessing. After the hermit’s prayer Bartholomew became a totally different person.
Mikhail Nesterov made his first sketches to this painting in Italy, on the island of Capri. He went there to draw Italian landscapes, but on the back side of these landscapes in his album he suddenly began to draw sketches to a painting about the life of the Russian Saint. On return to Russia, he continued to work on the painting.
For a long time the artist was drawing numerous sketches of peasant children, but could not find the only true image, until one day, walking around the village, he noticed a ten year old girl. "She was short-haired, with big, wide-open surprised blue eyes, and with a sickly look, - Nesterov wrote in his "Memoirs". - She looked kind of sad, and she was breathing feverishly". The artist managed to convince the girl’s parents to give their consent to their daughter’s sitting for him.
The "Vision of Young Bartholomew” became a sensation at the 18th exhibition of Peredvizhniki(The Wanderers). Pavel Tretyakov immediately acquired the work for his collection.
Later Mikhail Nesterov painted two copies of this picture. The first one was painted in 1917 at the request of a singer Feodor Chaliapin, and it was a gift to him. The second copy was painted in 1922 for the exhibition of Russian artists in the Great Palace in New York. This version of the painting is called the “Vision of Saint Sergius, When a Child" and contains one notable difference from the original picture: in the upper left - hand corner of the picture, Nesterov painted the moon, which is absent in the "Vision of Young Bartholomew". This painting was sold in 2007 at the Sotheby’s auction in New York for the record sum of 4 296 000 dollars, and Mikhail Nesterov became one of the most expensive Russian artists. ...


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