Having obtained the right to participate in the competition for the Big Gold Medal, Perov decided to submit to the Academic Council a sketch on the theme “Rural procession at Easter”, but the sketch was not approved.
Continuing to work on this plot, Perov simultaneously prepared the picture “Sermon in the Village”. Its critical content was not so directly expressed, and the author was awarded the Big Gold Medal and the right to travel abroad. It seems that the academic authorities did not understand the real meaning of the picture. Its content was no less topical and no less acute
In 1862, he exhibited in the Society for the Encouragement of Artists in St. Petersburg “The Rural Procession on Easter,” but the canvas was removed from the exhibition with the prohibition to betray his fame. The lack of spirituality of the church shepherds, the darkness, the ignorance and the unbelief of the people – the content of this work, by the power of denunciation, does not know its equal in the preceding Russian painting. By this time, the artistic language of Perov is freed from the pupils’ shackles, and one can speak of the novelty of its expressive means. Various elements of the picture submitted to the task of realistic reflection of the observed and deeply meaningful life situation.
Against the background of the gloomy rural landscape, a discordant drunken procession unfolds with images and banners after the festive Easter service. With harsh realism, Perov conveys not so much the physical as the spiritual poverty of these people. The painting produced a murderous impression on contemporaries by the contrast between the meaning of the rite and the almost animal state to which a person can descend. “The village religious procession at Easter” provoked a protest of official criticism and the church, was removed from the exhibition of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, banned for display and reproduction.
Pavel Mikhailovich Khudyakov, who bought it to Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov, wrote: “… rumors are rushing that you are about to be asked soon by St. Synod, on what basis do you buy such immoral pictures and expose the public? the permanent exhibition, from where it was soon removed, but still it raised a big protest! And Perov instead of Italy, as it were, did not get into Solovki. “
With this picture a young artist enters the history of Russian art.