Back to home page

TITLE: Perov (1) and Musorgskii (2) (1834-1882 and 1839-1881) (1883)
AUTHOR: V.V. Stasov
THIS VERSION: Copyright © 2002 Robert Russell; all rights reserved. Redistribution, or republication of this text in any medium requires the consent of the translator(s).

Introduction to the text

Much respected Mikhail Ivanovich, (3) I would ask you to find space in Russian Antiquity (Russkaia starina) (4) for a few pages of mine in which I attempt to study and compare two of our major artistic figures. Some of this material has been used before, some of it has not previously appeared in print. Both these artists have now departed this life, and therefore are suitable subjects for Russian Antiquity. But what is even more relevant in terms of national material is the content of their works, which was always drawn from our old serf way of life. If your readers are accustomed to finding on the pages of Russian Antiquity ideas, opinions, judgements, descriptions from the lips of numerous personalities who are long dead and who pass through your journal in an ever-changing gallery, then perhaps they will also be interested in ideas and descriptions written by people who, although still alive, can assist in the complete understanding and definition of those major figures who are no longer with us and who belong fully to history.



Surprisingly, no one in Russia has yet pointed out that within the world of the Russian arts there are astonishing parallels between Perov and Musorgskii. I believe this is a conclusion that will be reached by anyone who takes a look at these two figures. The general tenor of Perov and Musorgskii, the nature of their talent, their likes and dislikes, all their ideas, the choice of material for their works - everything about them was extremely similar. They did not know each other at all, they never met, perhaps they hardly knew - or only knew very little - about each other's work; nevertheless, it is as though these two artists, belonging to entirely different branches of the arts (one was a painter, the other a composer), spent their entire lives working together, side by side in one room, forever asking each other's advice and showing each other new works.

This phenomenon is so unusual that it deserves special attention. It is interesting to examine the source of such a phenomenon, but it is even more interesting to trace the resulting effects on our lives.

Perov and Musorgskii were born, lived and died at almost exactly the same time.

Perov was born in 1834 and died in 1882; (5) Musorgskii was born in 1839 and died in 1881. Each of them lived for forty-odd years. For each of them, the period of major, fully independent artistic activity began around 1860 and lasted until approximately 1875, i.e. it occupied no more than about fifteen years. Following this period, the later years of both artists' lives was a time of declining talent, with only a few, rare, isolated works revealing to us the former Perov and Musorgskii. Finally, let us note one further point of similarity: during their lifetimes, both artists were subjected to the most violent critical attacks for precisely those aspects of their work that were the most important, the most original, the most historically significant. They had to read and listen to criticism of those very aspects of their talent that will forever secure for them a major place in the history of Russian art. Moreover, their opponents were remarkably consistent: without fail, those who did not like Perov's paintings did not like Musorgskii's compositions, and vice versa. Everything in the two artists that was truthful, lifelike, sincere, and true seemed to their uncomprehending critics to be identically repulsive, insulting, and - above all - unnecessary. Yet in spite of all this, it never occurred to these critics to compare the artists, who belonged to two branches of the arts that are never compared: painting and music. The hatred was instinctive. Their enemies were all people of the same type: elevated rotten idealists.

One must note, though, that Perov's fate was, comparatively speaking, much better than that of Musorgskii. Perov had some predecessors: Fedotov, (6) and not only a whole series of attempts at the new art, but also the whole of Russian literature - the works of Griboedov, Pushkin, Gogol', Lermontov, Ostrovskii, Nekrasov, (7) and others who long ago succeeded in erecting the profound and unconquerable structure of realism in the hearts of the Russian people. Perov might have been attacked over some particular points, over individual details of his talent or his paintings, but nobody dared knock the ground from under his feet. It lay solid as granite, and it would have occurred to no one to question its complete legitimacy. With Musorgskii things were different. He was a musician, not a painter, and music was a sphere into which that ray of light had not yet penetrated, although it was already shining with all the brightness of midday in Russian literature, and was beginning to gleam with the clear light of morning in painting. Before Musorgskii there had only been one attempt at musical realism in Russia, and that was by Dargomyzhskii. (8) But he was loved and understood by few, by people who, of course, had a deep love for the great works of genius of Glinka (9) but who saw, in addition, that new forms were needed for the new age, who understood that from now on much could be (and would have to be) done differently in our music, and that Russian music would go far along new paths. These new paths, already clearly discerned in painting, had been seen by almost no one else in music twenty years ago. Dargomyzhskii , with his bold attempts at musical realism, stood alone and unrecognised. 'I am not mistaken', he wrote sadly in 1857. 'My artistic position in St Petersburg is not an enviable one. The majority of our music lovers and newspaper hacks do not acknowledge that I have any inspiration. They routinely look for melodies that are pleasing to the ear, and I do not labour to produce such melodies. I have no intention of lowering music for their sake to the level of amusement. I want the sound to be a direct expression of the word. I want truth. They are incapable of understanding that. My relationship with St Petersburg music connoisseurs and third-rate composers is even worse, because it is ambiguous. It's clear enough what these people are up to: they heap unreserved praise on the works of dead composers so as not to give contemporary ones their due. I keep on having to listen to unflattering insinuations, but I am used to it, and they have no effect on me...' Perov's predecessor, Fedotov, never had to go through anything of this sort in his time. He was well liked, he was loved, no one disputed his new direction. But if it was so with Dargomyzhskii, who was in many respects the Fedotov of Russian music, how many hundreds of times worse must it have been for the Perov of our music - Musorgskii - who at first lacked what Dargomyzhskii had to his name: operas, large-scale compositions for which, for whatever reason, the public had a certain respect; a reputation acquired over many years. Moreover, Musorgskii was much bolder than Dargomyzhskii , much more decisive and versatile in his choice of themes from contemporary reality, and he went further in 'expressing speech through musical sound'. Hence, in all this there were so many powerful reasons for hostility, for the rejection and rubbishing of Musorgskii by the public. There were no such major reasons for disliking Perov's works.

But if we put these small 'specifics' to one side, almost everything else in the lives and works of Perov and Musorgskii ran completely in parallel. In general, neither of them was to the majority taste, neither was properly understood and evaluated during their lifetimes. Of course, they were both recognised as good, talented, even fairly original artists, if rather ill-educated and incapable of harnessing all the possibilities of their art; and - the main thing - both were regarded as 'tendentious' people, that is, as people who were not on the right track ('the one that everyone is on'). They were seen as uncultured, tasteless people who dealt with matters that ought not to be dealt with and depicted what ought not to be depicted. They were seen as people in whose works this should be thrown out, whereas that should be banned. In general, they were seen as people of no particular significance. God forbid they should be compared with any major contemporary figures, European celebrities! This artist and this composer, who lack nobility, true loftiness, and genuine merit? Certainly not!

True, Perov and Musorgskii always had the support of a small number of people whose warm sympathy and presence near them was compensation for the difficulties experienced with the mass public. These were all people who valued the artists' character, their astonishing initiative, and the new treasures that they contributed to our art. True, these people did not sense the soul of the artists; they rushed to acquire for themselves the paintings of one and to promote, as far as they could, the compositions of the other. They supported both artists in the face of a distracted and inattentive public. But there were very few such people when set against a mass of eighty million, especially twenty years ago. Fortunately, it now seems more than likely with each day that passes that the opinion of these few people will in the end prevail.


The major characteristics of both Perov and Musorgskii were national character and a sense of reality. Herein lay the entire nature of their art, the whole of their strength and talent; none of their other qualities could compare with these two. Both artists will be esteemed by future generations precisely for these qualities: national character and a sense of reality. As happens with all artists, much in their work will fade and diminish with time, but everything that is true to reality and that expresses the national character will live forever as powerful monuments to our age and its creative strength. And this is because both Perov and Musorgskii expressed with complete sincerity and unshakable truthfulness only what they could see with their own eyes, only what existed in reality, and not what was dreamt up in any idealistic fantasies. In everything that reproduces true, genuine life there is a vitality that all other forms of art fail to achieve. The works of Perov and Musorgskii marked a giant step forward for our age compared with the preceding period. The range of material available to the artist became wider, much more capacious as a result of the new conditions of life, but in addition the views of artists themselves grew wider and deeper. The painter Fedotov and the composer Dargomyzhskii were able to express just a small fraction of the entire range of Russian reality, just as their great predecessor Gogol' had been able to do. The world of the landowning class and the bureaucrats was not entirely closed to them, and they drew on it, they depicted it with all the power of their talent, although, of course, with 'the fear of God', within the limits set by the most absurd, annoying, and cowardly censorship. Fedotov had the right to depict in his paintings a bureaucrat idolising a medal, and a crude, loud-mouthed major worming his way into the stultifying home of a merchant; Dargomyzhskii had the right to depict a civil servant idolising rank ('He was a Titular Counsellor, she was a General's daughter', or 'I am but a worm compared to him - a man like that, his Excellency himself'). (10) But such scenes were allowed to appear before the eyes and ears of Russians only because they seemed to be jokes, light-hearted 'fooling around' in painting and music, something jolly and amusing. In the censors' booths at that time it was recognised that there was nothing serious in all of this, nothing that touched the real essence of things. The tragic quality hidden in the depths of these 'jokes', the rottenness of bureaucrats and loud-mouthed soldiers, brought out in all its naked starkness by art, escaped the notice of the spies and policemen. As far as the lower classes were concerned, they could be depicted either as entirely prosperous and idyllically gracious, in other words idealised, or, if gestures were to be made towards the truth, then they had to be seen as stupid, crude, drunk, and caricaturised. In conformity with this scheme, Dargomyzhskii , original and talented as he was, determined to depict paysans who were either wholly idealised, if tragic - the miller and his daughter, Natasha; or realistic but comic peasant men who were drunken and hen-pecked ('Kak prishel muzh iz-pod gorok', 'A Husband Came From Under the Slope'). Apart from this, the whole ocean of Russian people, life, characters, relationships, misfortune, unbearable burdens, submissiveness, stopped-up mouths - all of this might as well not have existed. It was as if it had nothing to do with art.

Both Perov and Musorgskii are painters of the people, a people that has long been forgotten, long pushed out of sight behind pretty decorations, there to freeze in total obscurity. In their day, they both had many themes and artistic tasks that they completed magnificently, but none was higher, more powerful, or more significant than those parts of their works that feature the figure of the common people in all its severe, unadorned truth, perhaps even in all its roughness. The world of Russian serfdom, that is the true sphere of Perov's and Musorgskii's greatest, most perfect works. Here they expressed their deep power, originality, and innovative quality. This was the true task of their lives, and it is one that they both fulfilled to perfection.

Both artists were born during the complete collapse of the institution of serfdom. (11) They spent the first half of their lives witnessing this phenomenon, and the second half recreating the monstrosity in all its splendour and from all angles. In doing this, neither Perov nor Musorgskii ever had a solid system or a carefully organised plan. Neither ever said to himself, 'I think I'll depict serfdom, warts and all. I think I'll paint its picture.' No, there was never anything like that. But they both spent the whole of their childhood and youth in the depths of the countryside amongst landowners and peasants, and amongst everything that came to the surface from the terrible cohabitation of these two classes. For many years, when they were young, they were immersed in all this; and later, full of indignation, grief, and sympathy, when the chance came to open their lips at least a little, they simply reproduced - involuntarily one might say - one after another, the scenes they had witnessed with their own eyes.

All the things that Musorgskii had heard and seen among the landowners was expressed in his many letters to friends from the early 1860s, almost immediately following the great upheaval of the Emancipation of the serfs. In one letter he writes from the countryside: 'What sort of people do we have as landowners, "planters"! (12) You meet them every day, and every day they tearfully torment you, going on about "lost rights" or "out-and-out ruin". Sighs, moans, scenes! True, there are some decent young people, "the boys", but I almost never see them. They act as intermediaries, so they're always out and about. And, for my sins, I just hang around in the above-mentioned lavatorial atmosphere. It rarely touches your instinct for the elegant; all you can think about is how to avoid stinking and how to stop yourself suffocating...'. From another of Musorgskii's letters we learn how he studied the people. In 1868 he wrote from the countryside in the Pskov region: 'I have been observing the peasant men and women, and I've got some tasty types . One man came straight from Mark Anthony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in the scene where he gives his speech in the Forum over Caesar's body. A very intelligent, original, and caustic old man! It's all going to be very useful for me, and the women are just a treasure-trove of types. It's always the same with me: I'll spot some people, then later, when I have the chance, I'll squeeze them out.'

Perov's first independent effort was The Arrival of the Policeman at the Scene of the Investigation. (13) The motifs of this early work are: an unfortunate peasant caught chopping down trees; a glowering district policeman; a cunning-looking scribe; birch rods being tied together just outside the hut; ignorance, cold and hunger that seem to look out from every corner; a malicious kulak and a sheep-like submissiveness. Musorgskii's first independent effort was 'Kalistrat', a piece of juvenilia that took as its theme Nekrasov's lines:

There is none happier, none more handsome
Nor more elegant than Kalistratushka!
I bathe in spring water
I scratch my head
While waiting for the harvest
From an unsown strip!
The mistress of the house washes clothes
For little naked children.
She dresses better than her husband -
She wears bast shoes plaited double on the soles! (14)

Neither Perov nor Musorgskii ever betrayed the mood of these early works. Never in their entire lives did they portray peasants living in clover, sitting outside the hut having a pleasant discussion. Not once did their brush lie or falsify. They depicted only what actually exists and what they actually saw. That was precisely why they displeased so many people. After all, truthfulness to life is the major universal enemy, especially when we are shown it from an entirely different approach to the one prescribed.

Peasant types and scenes of peasant life are among the best things created by Perov and Musorgskii. The figures of the peasants in Perov's paintings Scene by a Railway, A Village Sermon, and even, in part, Pugachev's Men are types as strikingly truthful as the peasants in Acts 1 and 5 of Musorgskii's Boris Godunov, in his Khovanshchina, and 'Trepak'. (15) A remarkably typical 'granddad figure' and two other peasants staring as a train rushes by are a perfect parallel to the peasants in Musorgskii's opera, crowding into a Moscow square before the election of Boris as Tsar. In both sets of figures we see the same mixture of good nature, naivety, submissiveness, down-troddenness, and at the same time intelligence, cunning, and a caustic, mocking wit. Look into the dead, metallic eyes of the 'granddad standing in the centre of Perov's picture, look at his mummy-like smile, the products of long years under the yoke of serfdom. Look at the peasants in A Village Sermon, scratching themselves, not fully understanding the priest's sermon about how 'all power comes from God', while the nobleman's lackey next to them zealously pushes one of their number out of the way; meanwhile the landowner sleeps serenely and his wife flirts with a dandy. You see before your eyes exactly the same peasants as those depicted by Musorgskii in Boris Godunov, one of whom asks: 'Mitiukh, hey, Mitiukh, why are we yelling?', and the other answers, 'How would I know?' The old granddads laughing at the train are exactly the same peasants as those in Musorgskii who, in reply to the policeman threatening them with his baton for remaining silent, say with some humour, 'We'll start yelling again when we've had a little rest'.

Perov's women are a perfect parallel to Musorgskii's in that they natter, they are noisy, they chatter away like canaries, they make fun of each other, they have jocular slanging matches with husbands and uncles, or they shout cheerily to the policeman, 'Don't be angry Mikitich, don't be angry, my dear'. The peasant in Hunters at a Halt caustically ridiculing a degenerate nobleman is just like the peasant men and women ridiculing Boris's voivode in Kromy (Act V of Boris Godunov). In Perov's painting, one of Pugachev's comrades, sitting by him on a porch, with an axe in his hand - wild, malicious and pitiless - is exactly like one of the gang who are getting ready to do away with Khrushchev and the Jesuit in Act V of Boris Godunov. In both works we see people who have lost patience, who have grown wild and savage.

If one wanted to find a musical illustration for Perov's peasant men and women, or a painting that would illustrate Musorgskii's peasant figures, then I would say each would serve the other in this respect. All those Fomkas, Epifans, Mitiukhs, Afims, and many others in Musorgskii's two operas are the spitting image in all respects (character, looks, mood, good and evil) of all those identical Fomkas, Epifans, Mitiukhs and Afims that we find in Perov's paintings, but whose names we do not know.

But there is one interesting Russian type that you will not find in Perov, namely the uninhibited, merry, rollicking woman who has been through the mill. Musorgskii has this type in the figure of the innkeeper in Boris Godunov, humming her song about the 'Drake', and in the figure of the woman who sings the 'Gopak', (16) both of whom are wonderfully characteristic.

The final note in all these characters' lives is the same in the work of both artists: a miserable death.

Perov's superb painting On the Way to a Village Funeral (17) is fully matched by Musorgskii's 'Trepak'. In each we detect the same tragic quality, the same depth of feeling and heartrending tone. In Perov's work a woman and her children are using a firewood sledge to transport a poor dead man in a simple coffin made out of rough planks. They are all huddled together in one group, the living and the dead, it's cramped on the sledge, with the children squeezed to the side by the coffin and the widow sitting on one end of it. Some of the children are asleep, others just about to start howling, while their poor mother bows her head and leans in towards the tired-out old nag that is not now dragging hay or firewood but this sad procession - and all this amidst an icy, wintry landscape: fields covered in snow and a barely passable road. Snow-covered wastelands, cold, oblivion and eternal obscurity, as if one single bird out of millions had frozen to death on the road and no one knows anything about it or ever will, its life and death a matter of complete and utter indifference: such is the content of this painting. Peasants Returning from a Funeral continues this scene and this mood. (18) Once again we have winter, snow, empty wasteland, the 'back of beyond', helpless and forgotten people in thin homespun coats and well-worn sheepskins walking along an ill-defined path. The men with spades over their shoulders, the women with dead, grief-stricken faces. But this picture is of interest only in respect of its ideas and subject matter. The execution is very sketchy and unsatisfactory. None of the figures is drawn from life, their facial expressions are forced and artificial (the picture dates from the last few months of Perov's life). Musorgskii strikes the same terrible note in his 'Trepak'. 'Forest clearings, completely deserted. A blizzard howling and moaning. It seems as though in the blackness of night someone is being buried by the wicked storm. Look closer. Someone is! In the darkness Death has embraced a peasant, caressed him; she dances a trepak with the tipsy man. 'You are tormented by grief and melancholy. Lie down, my dear, prop yourself up and fall asleep. I'll warm you up with some snow, my darling...' Long and difficult years of backbreaking toil, cold and hunger, calluses on his hands, unhappiness at home with his family, and then - his poor body hidden under piles of snow, a blizzard raging, wind howling: both Perov and Musorgskii have drawn this same scene with an identical brush.

But in Perov's painting there is a scene from the peasant children's early childhood. Misfortune, poverty, helplessness, and all of this a hundred times worse after the death of the person they have just transported in his coffin. If these children ever grow up, what sort of life will they have? Perov depicts this life for us in one of his paintings, and standing alongside him there is Musorgskii in two of his superb romances. Which of us does not know Perov's Troika ? (19) Moscow kids forced by their master to drag a sledge across bare ice with a huge vat of water. All these kids probably came from the countryside and were forced to move to Moscow to work. But how they are transformed by this 'work'! An expression of endless suffering as well as traces of constant beatings are etched on their tired, pale little faces. The whole of their lives is narrated in their rags, in their poses, in the painful turn of their heads, in their tortured eyes, in their dear little mouths, half open with effort. In Musorgskii you meet the exact parallel to all this. His romances 'The Little Orphan' (to his own words) and 'Go to sleep, sleep peasant son' (to words from Ostrovskii's Voivode) are just as tragic and just as marvellously beautiful as Perov's picture. (20) With a heart-rending expression and a halting voice, the 'little orphan' pipes, 'I warm myself up and feed myself on hunger and on cold'. 'For my groan of starvation, good people, reward me with curses and beatings, with terror and threats...My strength has all gone...' Such is also the lot of the 'peasant son' by Ostrovskii, whose verses were adapted by Musorgskii, who added an inimitable expression of deep grief, emotion, sand musical beauty: 'We'll get over our troubles through work, that unkind stranger, eternal, unrelenting, spiteful, full of drudgery.'

How these two Musorgskii masterpieces were interpreted by two great Russian singers! The song of death, 'Trepak', was sung by the late Osip Afanasevich Petrov, (21) and 'The Little Orphan' by his wife, also a famous singer, Anna Iakovlevna Petrova. (22) One had to hear these great artists, although they were both already advanced in years, in order to comprehend the full truth and profundity of Musorgskii's two works.

Perov did not have occasion to depict peasant children in bright colours, whereas Musorgskii did. He drew this side of Russian childhood superbly, with great warmth of spirit. In the final act of Boris Godunov there is a scene taken from Pushkin's play that is unusually beautiful and original: the scene with the 'holy fool'. (23) Almost everything here is as it is in Pushkin, except that the action takes place not in a Moscow square with a backdrop of cathedrals, but in a forest in the south of Russia, near the town of Krom, at the moment when the Pretender appears with his hordes of followers. (24) A holy fool enters, pursued by a pack of boys who are mocking him and laughing at him, and they grab his 'kopeck' out of his hand. 'Iron cap!, iron cap! Yoohoo, Yoohoo', they shout, and buzz round him like mosquitoes. In Musorgskii's hands this tiny scene is full of playfulness, a carefree childish mood, an endearing naughtiness and liveliness that are entrancing (though not, of course, to the insensitive musical conservatives). I know of only one depiction of peasant children in Russian painting that can compare with Musorgskii's, and that is the children in Vladimir Makovskii's Night Scene ['Nochnoe']. (25)

Musorgskii's 'The Rascal' ['Ozornik'] (26) is another figure of the same type as the boys from the last act of Boris Godunov. They pester a holy fool, mocking and making fun of him, and in Musorgskii's song a lively, cheeky ragamuffin pesters an old woman in the street: 'Oh granny, oh my granny, you dolled-up beauty, turn around. Give us a kiss, you sharp-nosed, silver-haired old goggle-eyes! You're bent double on your walking stick, your legs are like matchsticks. Oh, don't hit me, don't hit me!'

Profoundly national artists like Perov and Musorgskii could not omit from their portrait gallery such a profoundly national type as the 'holy fool'. This type, which perhaps seems destined soon to die out in Russia, always played a major role in the old Russia of serfdom. The type was constantly to be seen, and hence could not fail to make a deep impression on Perov and Musorgskii. And both artists depicted the holy fool with remarkable depth and clarity.

The Man of God [Bozhii chelovek] (27) is one of Perov's major paintings. A holy fool stands in rags, barefoot, dishevelled, weighed down with heavy iron chains, leaning back against a wall. His pose and gestures are those of a semi-imbecile, and he fixes you with his mad, shining eyes. His mouth is wide open in a smile, he has grabbed hold of his head, and he seems to be out of breath after running quickly and to be uttering some strange speech. The weird and pitiful holy fool from Musorgskii's Boris Godunov also runs onstage puffing and panting. Like Perov's fool, he utters strange words with madness in his voice, singing plaintively: 'The moon is shining, the kitten's crying; get up, holy fool, you have said your prayers to God, you have bowed to Christ. Christ is our God, there will be fine weather, there will be the moon (words based on Pushkin). But several minutes later this very same holy fool, robbed of his kopeck by some village boys, witnesses the tempestuous entry of the Pretender and his retinue. Then he remains alone on the empty stage and, with a red glow beginning to spread from the fire that the outlaw-Pretender has lit, he sits on a small stone and utters a pitiful lament: 'Flow, flow, you bitter tears. Weep, weep, Orthodox soul. Soon the enemy will come and the impenetrable black darkness will descend. Grief, o grief of Rus'. Weep, weep, Russian people, hungry people!...' Here again we have before us the same figure that was depicted by Perov, but this time elevated to tragedy, to true pathos.

Another holy fool makes an appearance in Musorgskii's famous romance 'Savishna', (28) which is always a source of delight to our finest musicians. All of Musorgskii's romances are scenes taken from real life and spring directly from what he himself saw and heard, but this romance is one of the few Musorgskii works the origins of which have been documented. Once when he was in the country, standing by a window he happened to observe the following scene: an ugly, semi-crippled holy fool was making a declaration of love to a young woman who had taken his fancy. He was paying her compliments and at the same time he was ashamed of himself (just like the 'Ugly Monster' declaring his love for the beautiful merchant's daughter in Aksakov's fine tale 'The Little Scarlet Flower'). (29) The emotion, the submissiveness and self-conscious shame are deeply tragic and are captured with remarkable beauty in Musorgskii's romance.

In addition to all his other character types and scenes, in one marvellous work Perov creates a type that is not found in Musorgskii, namely the female holy fool in the drawing of that name from 1872, which was during his major period. The woman in question is sitting on a street corner, most likely in Moscow, declaiming something in her own fashion, while a crowd of female admirers listen fervently to her wild, incomprehensible words. It is an astonishing scene.

A figure always close to the people is that of the policeman. Perov and Musorgskii each depicted him just once, superbly in both cases. In Perov's work there is the callous, unfeeling figure sitting by the body that has been dragged from the water in The Drowned Woman. (30) He takes a drag of the cheap tobacco in his stubby little pipe as if he were guarding a pile of stolen goods that he has managed to recover. His broad face with its Kalmyk features, pitted with pock marks, his indifferent eyes, his official pose - everything about him reveals him to be a man who has been perfectly trained, who is, from head to toe, 'ready to serve', and who is completely incapable of being moved by anything. Musorgskii's depiction of the policeman is equally magnificent and equally true to life. It matters not that, rather than being contemporary, his policeman lived three hundred years ago; that fact changes nothing. Instead of guarding a dead body, he stands guard over a whole mass of living human bodies, a crowd drawn from the simple masses, driven out onto the square so as to beg Boris Godunov to take the throne. The only thing that matters to the policeman is that these mouths should shout and beg pitifully, that these knees should be bent and arms outstretched. It is essential that this official business be fair. As for everything else that might be going on in the heads of the people in the crowd while the ceremonial act of state is taking place, none of that has anything to do with him. He is exactly like the pockmarked Kalmyk in the policeman's greatcoat in Perov's painting who never entertains even a passing thought for the great mystery of death that has descended on this poor woman, driven by despair to throw herself in the water.

Landowners were depicted infrequently by Perov and Musorgskii, but when they were, their essential features were captured. The greater power, vividness and variety of depiction belong here to Musorgskii. A remarkable example of the landowner type is to be seen in Perov's painting A Village Sermon [Sel'skaia propoved]: (31) an insignificant and obscure little old man who appears to be meek and mild, but is probably in reality grasping and pitiless - and that's all there is to him. A much more complex and profound example of the ancient landowning type is presented by Musorgskii in the figure of Prince Ivan Khovanskii, from the opera Khovanshchina. He is an old man who is at times kind and magnanimous and at other times fierce, spiteful, and merciless. Puffed up by his ancestry and his limitless power, ruling the roost in his domestic harem, this is a man who is irascible to the point of blind fury, a man of limited horizons, a man who treats everything around him as his innate fiefdom, in thrall to him. Musorgskii intended to re-create this same type of landowner in the opera The Landless Peasant [Bobyl'], (32) the scenario for which survived among his papers and about which he and I conferred a lot shortly after Boris Godunov. Some material had already been composed for it. The scene in Khovanshchina in which Marfa tells the fortune of Prince Golitsyn is take straight from the scene in The Landless Peasant where the old landowner has his fortune told. In The Landless Peasant there was to have been a 'Landowners' Court' in the landowner's own home, set up like a Justice of the Peace. The accused was a poor peasant who had been caught poaching. The scene was a kind of counterpart to Perov's painting The Arrival of the District Police Officer at the Investigation.


A major and highly significant place among the creations of Perov and Musorgskii belongs to the clergy, both monastic and non-monastic. As with the 'common people', the priests depicted by the two artists are all entirely rural, from provincial backwaters. In respect of priests, neither Perov nor Musorgskii dealt with the capital cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. They depicted only what was most characteristic and only what they had experienced personally during their lives in the country.

'The Seminary Student' [Seminarist] (33) is one of the most magnificent types ever created by Musorgskii. Many hundreds, perhaps even thousand of young men from the St Petersburg student body have been admiring this astonishing real-life picture for more than a decade now. This type was close to them, well-known to all of them from their daily reality. In Musorgskii's work the type is portrayed with a truthfulness that is rarely encountered in art, especially music. A blockhead of a student, nearing adulthood, the son of a priest or sacristan, is condemned to swot up Latin, in which he has not the slightest interest, which has nothing to do with his life, never has had and never will have. Latin is of no use to him and yet he is forcibly compelled to stuff his head full of it. Hundreds of years have passed since Latin was first introduced into the Zaikonospasskoe Spiritual Academy in Moscow (34) and none of the students has ever - throughout their entire lives as priests and sacristans - needed to make use of this language that was learned with such difficulty. And yet, despite everything, this pointless milling of the wind had to keep on going. How many curses, how much hatred and contempt, how many reproaches have been directed at Latin from every corner of Russia for hundreds of years on end. What a painfully heavy yoke! What mutilation of the brain through the application of an unnecessary instrument of torture! If only something might result from all this in the end. But no, the unfortunate seminary students - in spite of all their Latin and other scholasticism - remained ignorant, benighted creatures without a ray of light in their heads, without thought or independence; they remained timid and submissive, playing no role in Russian life, engendering no great ideas, no deep emotions in those whom they ought, throughout their whole life, to have been serving by offering support, comfort, and aid. What did all this unfortunate book-learning lead to? It was precisely this spoiling of living nature and deformation of fresh forces that needed to be depicted in the new art. And this was indeed done in bright colours by the talented hand of Musorgskii. For the superficial and distracted listener, Musorgskii's 'Seminary Student' is nothing more than a source of fun, some merry laughter. But people for whom art is an important creation of life will look with horror at what is portrayed in this 'comic' romance. A young life caught in the senseless grip of an iron collar and left there to thrash around desperately: what a gloomy tragedy this is! A young man destined to spend his life like a squirrel in a wheel, aware every second of just how pointless the wheel is but still forced to run around inside it. Look lively there, keep it turning! What could be more terrible than this? There are smacks on the head from the fist of 'Father', the priest who is his mentor; there is the priest's daughter Stesha ('cheeks the colour of poppies, eyes filled with tenderness') who can be seen in the left choir stall during a thanksgiving service to the most holy and glorious Mitrodora while he himself intoned a Prokeimenon in the sixth tone - on you go, repeat like an idiot 'panis, piscis, crinis, canalis, et canalis!' How could one not be driven wild among all this madness? And the hero of Musorgskii's romance, who is still a fresh, healthy young lad, still sweet-natured and interesting, humorous and bold, will soon grow duller and let himself go, the colours of his life will fade and what will remain will be a crude, lifeless mannequin.

In Perov's work the figure of the seminary student appears twice. On the first occasion, in The Fishermen [Rybolovy] (35) he is still a lively, nimble boy, standing on the bank, carefully preparing a bucket for the fish while the priest ('Father') and a deacon catch fish in a net that they are dragging along the river. On the second occasion, in The Reception of the Seminary-Student-Wanderer [Priem strannika-seminarista], a transformation has already taken place. The figure who had been a lively, jolly boy and who had subsequently been beaten and systematically made a fool of for such a long time has now turned into something like a dim-witted barge-hauler. He is seated in a peasant hut where he has dropped in on his journey. His boots are heavily caked with mud and dust, he is dressed in sackcloth. He has been welcomed and given shelter by two kindly women, an old lady and her young daughter-in-law, who have placed before him what little they have and who look on with pleasure as he, tired and starving, greedily gulps down some broth from a cup. It must be admitted that this is not one of Perov's best paintings. It dates from 1874, i.e. from the beginning of his period of decline, and there is much in it that is imperfect, but nevertheless the central figure is tremendously successful. The 'seminary student' has now turned into an indifferent, rough, unfeeling lad, the most deeply prosaic of creatures from head to foot.

Musorgskii's 'The Sacristan' [D'iachok] and Perov's sacristan are closely related portraits of one and the same type, although Perov's figure (in the painting The Sacristan's Son becomes a Collegiate Registrar [Syn d'iachka, proizvedennyi v kollezhskie registratory]) is somewhat older. (36) He has an elderly wife and a grown-up son who, the first time he tries on his first uniform, already reveals on his face those good-for-nothing qualities that will be conspicuous for thirty or forty unbroken years, crushing and oppressing everything around him. (One is reminded of Nekrasov's 'Cradle Song': 'outwardly you'll be a civil servant, but in your soul you'll be a scoundrel...'.) (37) In the painting the sacristan is old and hunched. Even at home he keeps hold of the church keys. All day long he fusses around, concerned only with church services and his stipend, and he has just returned home for a few seconds to admire the brand new civil servant. Musorgskii's sacristan (Afanasii Ivanovich in The Fair at Sorochintsy (Sorochinskaia iarmarka) is much younger. He still climbs over fences to see his elderly sweethearts and still flirts awkwardly with them, but the heavy Church Slavonic manner, the mean little spirit of a scrounger, the self-evident servility and greed are all absolutely identical in both Perov and Musorgskii.

We encounter priests five times in the works of Perov: in A Village Sermon [Sel'skaia propoved'], in A Village Easter Procession [Sel'skii krestnyi khod], in A Meal [Trapeza], in Fishermen [Rybolovy], and in Pugachev's Men [Pugachevtsy]. (38) In the first of these paintings the figure of the priest is not quite as first envisaged by the artist. The picture was painted in 1861 and, in accordance with the thinking of that period, when the Academy of Arts considered the first sketch Perov was ordered to paint the priest in a cassock rather than fully vested. (i) But, irrespective of whether he is wearing a cassock or vestments, the priest here is a well-built, quiet, obscure old man who is preaching with conviction to a congregation of 'masters' on the text 'there is no other power than from God', and who is raising an old, trembling finger towards heaven. A Village Easter Procession is about something completely different. A priest has been celebrating Easter and, as he comes out of a peasant hut where the hospitality has been bountiful he can no longer remember a thing about 'the masters' or about power coming from God. He can hardly remember who he is, even if he is wearing vestments and if people are bearing a cross and icon in front of him. He has lowered his head with its untidy, tangled locks and as he stands by the hut porch he is trying to find something with which to support himself. His sacristan is in a similar state. In A Meal one priest or deacon is the sole representative of the non-monastic clergy; the painting consists entirely of monks and I will discuss it later. In Fishermen the priest and the deacon are not at a service or carrying out their duties. On a hot summer day they are engaged in their own beloved occupation: they have undressed, waded waist-deep into the water, and are enjoying themselves fishing, dragging a net. Although this painting is not one of Perov's best, there is much that is fine in it: the two principal figures - one bald-headed and the other with a kerchief wound round his head, their faces, so accustomed to serious, significant expression, now concentrating deeply on nothing but fish - are comic in the manner of Gogol'. The priest in Pugachev's Men is one of the wonderful exceptions in this generally unsuccessful painting, and therefore we will discuss him when we consider the painting as a whole.

There are no priests in Musorgskii's works. The only time a priest makes a fleeting appearance is in 'The Seminary Student'. But although he appears only fleetingly, he is drawn unusually vividly. He is a heavy priest of the old school, a man with a heavy fist who, when he is not conducting services, teaches Latin at the seminary and marks the seminary student down in the punishment book because during the service he 'kept on looking' to the left choir stall and 'winking' at the priest's lovely daughter, Stesha. Clearly the tuition between them must have gone well!

Both Perov and Musorgskii depicted many monks, indeed a whole gallery. Both artists present a remarkable variety of types and characters, yet they all belong to the same nation, they are all cut from the same national cloth. Perov's monks make their first appearance in Tea-Drinking in Mytishchi [Chaepitie v Mytishchakh] (39) in the form of a fat, red-faced fellow who is on his way to the Troitskii Monastery and, in the heat of the day, is taking a rest in the shade of some trees, sitting by a samovar, refreshing himself with tea. A young servant-woman pushes away a crippled former soldier who has lost a leg and who is begging for alms. The one who has been idle all his life gets everything, whereas there is nothing for the one who has worked like an ox all his life and is now forced to wear rags and to get around on a wooden leg. The situation is clearly the same as in A Village Sermon, where the landowner sleeps peacefully while a lackey uses his fists to drive off some peasants.

In A Meal we find a continuation of the same motif, this time not outdoors but in the magnificent, spacious, richly decorated hall of a monastery, with frescoed walls, icons in gold frames, and a large crucifix in the background. Clearly, a sumptuous memorial feast is in progress, and a courteous monk is gesturing to the huge, fat wife of a general (a lady who was originally from a merchant's family) to sit down and try the food. The entire hall is filled with tables set for dinner, and all the brothers are sitting up properly in their picturesque Eastern costumes, black klobuks (40) on their heads with the veils extending down their backs, wide black cloaks falling in magnificent drapes. How many different natures, diverse characters do we see here! Some are good-natured, others sharp and malicious; some are meek, others irritable; some are from uncouth peasant stock, others have tasted the book of wisdom and are capable of arguing - right now if you like - for forty hours at a stretch; some are haughty and imperious, others are stooping humbly to touch the earth with their brow. But they are all similar in one respect: they like eating and drinking, each one enjoying himself in his own way. And it never occurs to them that on the threshold of their magnificent, richly painted refectory there is a crowd of beggars, one of whom - a poor woman with a child - is sitting barefoot on the floor, stretching out her hand from afar. As if for clarification, among the inscriptions on the wall in Ecclesiastical Cyrillic are the words, 'Lazarus, come forth!' (41) Everyone is helping themselves to food and drink, everyone is carefully transporting the best bits from the table to their stomachs. One of them, dashingly throwing back his head, gulps down a large mouthful of a merry potion; a second peevishly rebukes a grey-haired lackey for taking too long to pull a cork from the neck of a bottle; a third, seizing a corner of a kerchief in his teeth, fills it with all sorts of tasty morsels from the table; another, who has already had quite a lot to drink and is screwing up his eyes a little, is deep in learned discussion and is wagging a finger while making his point; then there is one who is completely at ease, with arms folded over his belly, his rosy-cheeked face upraised and no longer thinking about anything whatsoever; he is in a state of peaceful bliss, quite oblivious to the fact that a guest, a non-monastic clergyman, probably a deacon, in a bright silk cassock is muttering something to him under his breath, sneaking on someone or telling tales. The guest himself, his face pale and unnatural-looking from drink, is giggling disgracefully, bent right over to the table. And above this whole scene unfold the inscriptions on the walls: 'Judge not that ye be not judged', (42) 'Be not confused, o my heart' - and everyone is pleased, everyone is happy, the rich meal is being properly conducted, a ray of sunlight enters the window in a slanting golden column, and in the air a white dove flutters its wings wildly, having found its way in here by accident through an open window.

An entirely different story is told in Perov's small but highly original drawing Sharing Out the Inheritance at the Monastery [Delezh nasledstva v monastyre]. It is night. One of the monks has died. The doors of the cell are ajar. The deceased is lying on the floor, his eyes wide open. His clothes are being removed roughly and without pity. Some monks are taking quick drinks from the bottles that the dead man has left behind, while others are greedily rifling through drawers. Finally, one of the brothers is smashing the lid of a trunk with a huge crowbar. Everything is in a jumble, in chaos, as if there had been an enemy invasion. What a contrast to the following day, when this same dead man will be laid out decorously on a catafalque, surrounded by serious, severe, funereal faces.

To conclude this section of Perov's works, I would like to draw attention to a small picture that is not just unfinished but actually exists only in the form of a first sketch. The picture is called Conversation between Two Students and a Monk by a Bell-Tower [Beseda dvukh studentov s monakhom, u chasovni]. It was begun in 1871, then abandoned for fully ten years. Why, I don't know, but most likely not because the subject ceased to interest Perov. Quite the opposite. In a pencil drawing of 1880 we find the same subject, only somewhat altered: the setting is no longer outdoors, but in a railway carriage. There are more people in the scene, but the principal figures and their poses remain as they were previously. The young students have got into an argument with a monk, and have driven him to the point where he simply doesn't know where he is. He has sat down firmly on the bench, grasping hold of the board, and his eyes are turned upwards as if to say, 'Good Lord, what are these people saying?', and he clearly has no idea how to reply. I consider this small, unfinished picture to be one of Perov's most significant works. The theme is one of the most modern he has ever dealt with: the clash between the new generation and the old, and handled totally without mocking gibes or stupid, pointless harassment. No, it is done seriously and importantly, with due dignity. The young man on the left is particularly good and true-to-life. He is wearing glasses, sitting with his arms clasped round his knees, and he is concentrating deeply on the idea that he is expounding. Scenes like this, and not just with monks, are an everyday occurrence for the younger generation, yet before Perov no one thought of embodying them in a picture. Perov does so with great talent, simplicity, and veracity. There are, perhaps, few scenes from modern life that are so important for art, so much in need of vivid representation as this: 'New' attacks 'Old', urgently requiring of it an account and a response. Perov's penetrating intelligence, which is observant, sympathetic, and inquiring, is fully revealed here. I believe that this small picture is one of the clearest justifications for Perov's fame among Russians.

Among Musorgskii's works there is nothing of the same order. Perhaps only 'The Seminary Student' raises the issue. He too protests, attacks, and complains about the world around him. He too is painfully constrained within stocks that were built long ago. How he longs to break free from them! But here the task the artist sets himself is less demanding and significant than Perov's. Musorgskii complains only about absurd scholastic tuition and the restrictions it places on life. As for complaining about restrictions on thought and pointing out life's warts and pimples, no attempt is made to do this in 'The Seminary Student'.

On the other hand, Musorgskii has a whole gallery of monks who are not only the equal of Perov's but who far exceed them. His Varlaam in Boris Godunov is a broad and multi-faceted personality of a type that is not encountered in Perov. Varlaam is a powerful, Herculean figure who has led a fast life for many years and has become tempered through wine and debauchery. This is a man who, like Perov's Wanderer [Strannik], (43) has long wandered along highways and byways and through villages, but - compared to Perov's figure - he has a completely different tone to him, a strength that is nowhere expressed in Perov. He carouses like the monks in Perov's A Meal, he is greedy, gluttonous like several of Perov's other monks, but in addition he has a wild, impenetrable quality that is not to be found in any of Perov's characters and that is fully expressed in the aria 'How it was in the town of Kazan'' [Kak vo gorode bylo vo Kazani] that he sings in a fierce, animal-like way as if he himself were some sort of vestige from extinct tribes of cannibals. Later, this very Varlaam raises a powerful and threatening national storm against two catholic monks, Jesuits, who have found their way to Russia with the False Dmitrii. There is only one counterpart to Varlaam in Russian painting, and that is Repin's Archdeacon [Protod'iakon]. (44)

Another of Musorgskii's monks, Misail, is as profound an embodiment of the Pushkinian original as is Varlaam. Cowardly, weak, for ever holding onto a friend, even getting drunk behind his broad back, this monk is one of the personality types whom one could point out in Perov's A Meal.

Musorgskii's Pimen and Dosifei are completely different. They are ascetic and deeply serious individuals who have nothing in common with outrageous behaviour and carnivorous gluttony. One is a chronicler, entirely immersed in the popular tales that he is inscribing in his own hand, a tender and reflective spirit. The other is a true leader, a national fanatic, and a menacing despot. In Perov's Pugachev's Men there is one figure who is the effective counterpart to Musorgskii's Dosifei, namely the schismatic monk in the hat and with the split white beard each half of which is wedge-shaped who is standing behind Pugachev, next to the cross-eyed Tartar. This monk is a profound and powerfully typical figure.


Now I will draw attention to a thematic point of contact between Perov and Musorgskii that is of quite a different type. Musorgskii's piece for fortepiano 'The Seamstress' [Shveia] (45) is a depiction of a female worker, a sweet, gracious, thoughtful, elegiac creature, though oppressed by poverty. This picture was inspired by Hood's 'Song of a Shirt', as Musorgskii himself told me. (46) 'The Song of a Shirt', as is well known, was also the inspiration for Perov's The Drowned Woman, that terrible scene that is so often repeated everywhere in our country: early morning, a penetrating fog, the bank of a river, and on the ground lies the poor bloated body of a young woman who has been pulled from the water. In these two works we have the beginning and the end of the drama. The middle note is struck by Perov's In the Loans Office [U ssudnoi kassy], (47) where a poor, sad, thoughtful girl, probably also a seamstress or tailor, is waiting for the hatch to be opened at a loans office. This is not one of Perov's best pictures, but I must refer to it here because the subject is one that is so similar in the works of our two artists and so tragic in life.

Another point that Perov and Musorgskii have in common is in the depiction of artistic dilettantes. Each of them has drawn a dilettante in his own branch of the arts, Perov in painting, Musorgskii in music. Once again this is an extremely fresh and contemporary issue. Before Perov and Musorgskii no one had dealt with this question. Whether because there were fewer dilettantes in former times or because they were not such a harmful plague as they are now, no painter had depicted them, and even writers sought to depict only those who were 'true artists in their soul', although these true artists never did anything, and were forever wallowing in cheap and false little sweet sensations that were completely worthless: 'neither a candle for God nor a poker for the devil'. But now this false poetry no longer means anything, and it is high time it fell prey to satire. Such satire is precisely what Perov and Musorgskii have created. The former's The Dilettante [Diletant] (48) is a fat military man who daubs canvases at home in his spare time and goes into ecstasies over them, along with his wife, who is gazing ardently at the painting with her hand cupped like a binocular in front of her eye, while he puffs lazily on a short pipe. This is a remarkably truthful painting that instantly transports the viewer into an atmosphere of worthless and unnecessary tinkering with art. But Musorgskii goes both further and wider. First, under the title 'The Classic' [Klassik], (49) he presents a hilarious portrait of a musical dilettante who is 'simple and clear, modest, polite and fine, a pure classic, and courteous'; he is 'an enemy of the latest tricks' because 'their noise and din and terrible mess frighten and alarm him', and 'he sees in them art's coffin'. This satirical caricature was so amusing and true-to-life that the whole of the Petersburg musical world went into fits of laughter. A little later Musorgskii returned to this theme, only this time his aim was wider. In 'Little Heaven' [Raek] (50) he presents the same dilettante, who 'was innocent and who captivated his elders through his obedience; his sweet, childishly bashful babble seduced the hearts of many'. Alongside this figure, Musorgskii placed two further musical dilettantes: one of them, heavily pious and mystical, (ii) preaches in classes at the conservatoire that 'the minor tone is an original sin and the major tone is a sin of atonement [grekh iskupleniia]'; the other, lightweight and flighty, 'heeds nothing, nor can heed anything, save Patti; (51) Patti he adores, Patti he lauds'. (iii) These three characters do not remain on the peaceful, innocent ground of their Platonic dilettantism and bad composing. Oh, no! They shift their ground to hound and persecute true, talented musicians (this all really happened in Petersburg in Musorgskii's time). Joining forces with yet another musician, this time not a dilettante, who 'rants and raves, rages and threatens' , they appeal to the highest authority, the Muse Euterpe herself (52) 'to shower the golden rain of Olympus on their fields', 'to send them inspiration', 'reinvigorate their feebleness', and they 'will sing her praises on their resounding zithers'. At this point the innocence has ended, the previously mild dilettantes have become fierce and malicious. Perhaps Perov's mild dilettante would have done the same thing at the earliest opportunity; if they are touched in their putrid sanctuary, dilettantes are always capable of anything. This was the creeping louse to which the talent of Musorgskii administered a painful blow. How good that was, how wonderful - and how necessary! In this instance art did not simply depict what exists; it fulfilled its highest and most important role as valuer and judge of life.

I have set out all the major tasks and motifs where the work of Perov and Musorgskii intersected almost constantly throughout their lives. But towards the end of their lives the points of contact between them became even closer and stronger. Perov spent the whole of his final years working on the huge and complex historical painting Nikita Pustosviat, which remained unfinished; Musorgskii worked on the huge and complex historical opera Khovanshchina, which also remained unfinished. The subject of both works is absolutely identical. The time is that of the revolt of the strel'tsy, the setting is the world of Russian schismatics, the aim is to depict the clash between the old, dying Rus' and the new embryonic Russia. In neither artist is there any intolerance or hostility to the Rus' of the schismatics and the sects in spite of the sediment of absurdity, of innate ignorance and lack of restraint that existed there alongside much that was good. Both artists saw clearly (saw with the inner eyes of their soul) how much there was in Rus' that was wonderful, powerful, pure and sincere. Above all, they saw how Rus' was within its rights to fight tooth and nail to assert its old way of life. Hence both Perov and Musorgskii endow the major protagonists of their works with so much that is sympathetic. In Perov's painting, Nikita Pustosviat himself and his chief comrade standing a few paces behind him with a silver icon in his hands are real masterpieces of the national character: one has such strength, courage, fiery energy and impetuousness, and the other has such measured, stubborn restraint! Perov showed little aptitude for the depiction of very varied and complex scenes, events, characters and incidents - however much he tried in this area he never succeeded, everything turned out weak and unskilled. On the other hand, he invariably succeeded with individual characters from the ranks of the people, and this is why in a painting that is as indifferent, ill-proportioned, and unsatisfactory as Nikita Pustosviat (53) we encounter, amidst the general desolate failure, two such remarkable creations as the schismatics that I have mentioned. Even in the raging, disorderly mass of schismatics who charge through the painting there are a few figures who are quite well caught (the one with a scroll in his hands, or the one immediately behind Nikita who is holding aloft an icon painted on a wooden board). But the left side of the painting, showing the Tsarevna Sofiia, the boyars' wives, the Russian Orthodox priests, and the foreign guests is entirely lacking in any signs of talent, individuality, or truth.

As a character, Musorgskii was much broader than Perov. His talent was also more wide-ranging, profound, and diverse. In addition to his other gifts, Musorgskii was to the highest degree endowed with a talent for historical creation, and nothing could be 'more historical' than his two operas Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina. In the operas he captures to perfection the spirit of each of the two ages, the diverse personalities that belong to each age, and those scenes that characterise them profoundly. It is not, of course, part of my present task to analyse them in detail here - that would require a separate, specialised study; nevertheless, I must say a few words here, even if only in passing, about Khovanshchina (Boris Godunov has no parallel in the work of Perov). The general impression from the work is of the mass of the people, a popular movement, national passions, national interests; but alongside this there is the figure of Dosifei, the leader of the schismatics, an ardent and careful fanatic, profoundly patriotic, with a lucid intelligence, and at the same time a slave to ancient popular legends. Around him are ranged the figures of the two princes: Golitsyn, the representative of the new, semi-European Russia, and Khovanskii, the representative of the benighted, patriarchal, uncivilised Rus' of the Domostroi. (54) There are also two female schismatics: Marfa - young, ardent, exuding love for life and pleasure, and Susanna - old, withered, malicious, envious, and ascetic. Then there are several more secondary figures and-as a general background - the strel'tsy (55) and schismatics, (56) the deep, menacing mass of the people, ignorant and turbulent like the heaving depths of the sea. In all of this Musorgskii went much further and deeper than Perov. Despite a few unsuccessful moments, he fulfilled his aim with great plasticity. Nevertheless, the two artists are close in terms of the essence, the choice, and the entire direction of their task.

Another of Perov's unfinished works is Pugachev's Men. It is interesting, is it not, to learn that Musorgskii (who had, incidentally, never heard of Perov's painting) intended to follow Khovanshchina with an opera entitled Pugachev's Men. He and I had many conversations on this topic, and the traces of this intention may be found in our correspondence. Musorgskii, again exactly like Perov, intended to base his work to some extent on Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter, (57) but also to add many new elements. In one of the acts of the opera there was to have been a staging of exactly the same scene presented by Perov: Pugachev on a porch, surrounded by comrades, assistants, and a whole crowd of wild, unbridled outlaws, both Asiatic and Russian, while beside him stands Father Gerasim (from Pushkin) with a cross in his hands, wearing a poor country priest's cassock and perhaps also, as in Perov, barefoot and quivering with terror. There would also be inexorable, fierce human butchers with axes in their hands. It is probable that the figures of the landowners, both male and female, and indeed everyone who had been caught unawares and captured in towns and villages, would have been portrayed more successfully by Musorgskii than by Perov, who, in his later years, had succeeded far too rarely, and certainly not with anything historical. He was comparatively successful with a remarkable little preparatory sketch that now belongs to P.M. Tret'iakov, (58) in which he catches well the general impression of fire, invasion, savage violence and helplessness. It must be remembered, however, that this sketch was completed in 1873, when he had only just started to falter, and was still essentially the real Perov, still capable of creating much that was superb, even on historical themes, an area that was alien to him. The two large paintings entitled Pugachev's Men dating from 1875 and 1879 are of very little artistic or historical significance, and the pencil drawings Pugachev's Men Galloping on Horseback and Pugachev's Men Leading Prisoners (1879-1880) are even less significant.

There are many works by Perov and Musorgskii that have not been discussed here, even though they are among the artists' finest. Thus, for example, I have said nothing about paintings by Perov such as The Arrival of the Governess at the Merchant's House [Priezd guvernantki v kupecheskii dom], The First Monday in Lent [Chistyi ponedel'nik], 'The drawing teacher' [Uchitel' risovaniia], The Bird-Catcher [Ptitselov], The Fisherman [Rybolov], Hunters at a Stopping Place [Okhotniki na privale], Bazarov's Father and Mother at the Grave of their Son [Otets i mat' Bazarova na mogile syna], etc.; (59) nor about works by Musorgskii such as 'Carousing' [Pirushka], 'The Goat' [Kozel], 'The Nursery' [Detskaia], 'The Forgotten One' [Zabytyi]. (60) This is because the themes of all these works are treated by one of the artists and not the other. It has not been my intention here to present comprehensive studies of these two artists, but simply to indicate their similarity and the points of close contact between them. A full study of their works would require much wider treatment.

Turning my thoughts now to the demise of Perov and Musorgskii, I once again find a remarkable similarity. They both died without completing their true task, and in their later years they both wasted a significant portion of their creative strength and talent, and turned to a new area that was alien to them. Perov paints pictures on religious, allegorical, and mythological subjects that are completely unnatural for him (The Mother of God' [Bogomater'], The Deposition [Sniatie s kresta], The Crucifixion [Raspiatie], 'Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane [Khristos v Gefsimanskom sadu], The First Christians in Kiev' [Pervye khristiane v Kieve], Spring [Vesna]. (61) Musorgskii composed a number of romances to words by Count A.K. Tolstoi and Count A.A. Golenishchev-Kutuzov (62) on lyrical themes that were not at all suited to him: 'The Troubadors (Serenade)' [Trubadury (Serenada)], 'The Commanders' [Polkovodtsy] (from 'Dance of Death [Pliaska smerti]), etc. In general, they each created many works with abstract aims, lacking in the realistic and national roots that underlie the entire artistic strength of both Perov and Musorgskii.

One might bitterly regret this waste, but that was the way the lives of the two artists turned out, and it is highly probable that some elements of Russian life in the age of serfdom, which they depicted with such skill, were partially responsible for the decline and disfigurement of their own characters and talent towards the end of their lives. Contact with filth infected even these pure natures.


i. This strange way of thinking did not exist even during the reign of Emperor Aleksandr I, as we may judge conclusively from Venetsianov's painting A Dying Woman Receives Holy Communion [Prichashchenie umiraiushchei], (63) where the priest is seen wearing vestments. However, the attack on the depiction of priests' vestments in paintings, which coincided - as I recall - with the attack on cross-shaped patterns on ladies' dresses and coats, did not last long and by 1862 Pukirev (64) was not reprimanded for the fact that in his painting An Unequal Marriage [Neravnyi brak] the priest was seen wearing vestments.

ii. N.I. Zaremba, former director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire.

iii. A.N. Serov