As one picture fed the artist all his life: “Everything is in the past.” Vasily Maximov
Maximov’s painting “Everything in the past” was an exceptional success for the artist. The master wonderfully reflected the idea of the picture on the canvas – it is a longing for the past time. The popular picture not only glorified the artist, but also “fed”almost all of his life.
Vasily Maximov was born in a peasant family, and until the age of ten he grew up in the village. The future artist was surrounded by centuries-old traditional way of life of peasants, well-established ceremonies of weddings and rural holidays, huts with beautiful carvings and folk costumes with hand embroidery. The artist grew up in the thick and beauty of Russian nature. Everything that surrounded the future artist from an early age, later masterfully reflected on the canvases of Maximov. His painting “All in the past” of 1889 is especially vibrant and emotional.
Heroines of the picture
The main figures of the painting are two elderly women sitting on the threshold of their house. Apparently, this is a noblewoman and her assistant. The lady of the house looks well-groomed despite his age. She is dressed in a floral dress and a dark Cape with fur. The head is decorated with a white lace cap with a blue flower. In her hands she holds a pair of gold spectacles, which she has removed in deep thought. The woman is sitting in a large chair with a pillow. Another pillow is placed under her feet, where her faithful friend – the dog-is snugly located. On the hands of the heroine-gold rings. The look, attire and pose speak of the former status of a woman: she was a domineering, strong-willed and, of course, wayward lady. But now her gaze had faded.. What was she thinking, looking up at the sky? Of course, about the past youth, about the once full house with guests, about dancing and fun, about Affairs of the heart, about good health… Where did it all go?
There is a version that the prototype of the lady was the daughter-in-law of the artist, the wife of his brother Alexey. A noblewoman’s maid, sitting right on the doorstep, is also passing her time. Her outfit is simpler, but neat. Colorful dark skirt, shirt and apron. The maid is busy with her favorite task. I think she’s knitting a stocking. But her eyes are not on the needles.. She looks at nothing. She looks at nothing. Her gaze, too, went out… And her thoughts are inspired by longing for a bygone time. Of course, she is also nostalgic for her past youth.
Between the heroines is a set table, on which there are expensive porcelain dishes (Yes, the woman was rich). The samovar is visible behind the maid. A beautiful bright blanket hangs on the railing of the steps. On the table, covered with a beautiful tablecloth, there is a lovely Cup of fine colored porcelain, sweets are served for tea, and there is a sugar bowl in the same beautiful dishes. Apparently, the heroines decided to have a tea party in this beautiful weather.
Maximov’s main message
The first and main thought is, of course, a longing for the past time, for former youth. This is indicated by an old Park in the background, fallen trees, a dilapidated house against the background with boarded-up Windows (I think there once lived a young family who moved to the city, so the house became lifeless). Near the house there were once flowerbeds and beautiful gardens, but now there are piles of dried grass. Even the birds that fly away into the distance symbolize the past youth.
The second thought is a note of optimism that the artist wanted to bring to the nostalgia of these women. A beautiful and lovely manifestation of this thought is the lilac Bush, in the shade of which the lady and the maid sit on this Sunny spring day. The day is very warm and bright. White clouds fly across the blue sky. The spring landscape, filled with eternal beauty and decorated with a lush lilac Bush in the center, brings life to the emotional side of the canvas. It also demonstrates the increasing role of landscape in Russian art in the 1880s.
The artist showed on the canvas not only nostalgia and a note of optimism, but also the difference in social classes: let’s take a closer look at the dishes from which the heroines drink tea. An exquisite gilded China Cup and saucer by the lady and a massive mug by the maid, which is not even on the table, but on the step next to it. Another contrast in the different classes of the old village: the mistress’s gaze looks up, and the servant’s eyes look down humbly. Despite the warm spring day, the picture smells of autumn, nostalgia for the years that are gone forever. And all these attributes in the form of porcelain dishes and expensive clothing are remnants of the former luxury of a once-chic manor.
Interesting fact about the painting
After writing the picture “All in the past” Maximov no longer had works of this level that would have received such a stunning success in the public reviews. For example, the critic Vladimir Stasov in 1889 in the article “Our Peredvizhniki now” gave a very high assessment of the picture. In his opinion, this painting “represents a major unit in the history of his [Maximov’s] work”, and it became the artist’s most significant achievement.”
The artist Yakov Minchenkov wrote about Maximov in his “Memoirs of the Peredvizhniki”: “the most popular in society was his painting”All in the past”. And we must agree that the picture is deeply felt and conveys a certain era. In the fading old landowner, who is living out her last days in a poor peasant environment, the memory of the former broad and luxurious landowner’s life is perfectly expressed… unfortunately, this picture was a Swan song in the work of Vasily Maximovich.”
Yes, Minchenkov was right. Maximov is an artist of one picture. The famous canvas gave the artist both success and shackles. More significant works were not written by him. And to earn a living for himself and his family, he repeatedly repeated his work, which was popular with customers. As a result, Maximov wrote more than 40 author’s repetitions.
Today, Maximov’s painting pleases the audience in the halls of the Tretyakov gallery and embodies the once landowner Russia with its heroes, way of life and traditional customs.