The first exhibition of the Peredvizhniki was opened in 1871 in the Academy of Arts and consisted of only forty seven works. However, it received a positive response from the press, became popular with the public and was commercially successful. Ivan Kramskoi, one of the leaders of the Association of Travelling Art Exhibitions, wrote in a letter to his friend the artist Fedor Vasil'ev: 'We opened the exhibition on the 28th of November, and it is a success, at least all St Petersburg is taking about it. It is the greatest news in the city, if one is to believe the newspapers.' After St Petersburg it travelled to Moscow, Kiev and Khar'kov.
After the first exhibition of the Peredvizhniki, Stasov became their chief champion and continued his unfailing support during the next decades. In this review of the 1871 exhibition Stasov praises the idea of the Association, which not only aimed to provide artists with the means of existence, but most importantly to address the masses of the Russian people. He commends the initiative and energy of the new generation of artists and compares their dynamism and intellectual maturity with the staid and routine work of the Academy professors, which he had criticised in the reviews of the Academy exhibitions.
In his analysis Stasov focuses on the history painting by Nikolai Ge Peter I
Interrogates Tsarevich Alexei at Peterhof and expresses his opinion of the
historic significance of Peter the Greatís reform and the personality of the
tsar, whose two hundredth anniversary was celebrated in 1872. An example of
Stasovís ability to turn the analysis of a paining into a lively story is his
description of Vasilii Perovís painting The Hunters Take a Break which the
critic enthusiastically elevates above the works by Velasquez and Murillo.