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The portrait was commissioned by P. Tretyakov among other paintings depicting outstanding figures of Russian culture. While working on the canvas, the artist conducted talks with the writer about the painting “Christ in the Desert,” which struck the writer with his thoughtfulness. In his other portraits, the elderly Goncharov looks puffy, indifferent, balding old man, which did not give an accurate picture of him.
Kramskoy portrayed him completely different: calm, overweight, broad-faced, with neatly trimmed whiskers on his face, an elegantly dressed man with a lively character. His humane, affable, light blue eyes attract attention. On the canvas in front of us sits imposingly, lounging in an armchair, a patriarchal gentleman who loves his country, its entire Old Testament way, but at the same time respecting the culture of the West.
The composition of the picture is peculiar: the writer sitting in a chair in a laid-back pose, leaning on his back, is depicted on a darkened background of the wall.
The lower border of the frame hides the figure just above the knees. Position and manner of holding, simple elegant clothes reveal the inner essence of man. The hands of the hero are realistically written: one hand rests calmly on the hip, the other is turned upside down. The color of the picture is reserved and noble, only a face stands out as a bright spot.
The writer's appearance and manners were reflected in the imprint of national features, so brilliantly manifested in his novels. The mixture of soulfulness and self-will, simplicity and pride, national sybarism and sensuality distinguished the personality of the artist of the word. So Kramskoy saw him, working on the images of good heroes, which he considered his main task. The basis of the portrait of Goncharov is a feeling of sympathy and respect for the hero, his spiritual world, as well as faith in the unlimited power of beauty.
Aivazovsky Moonlit Night