Self-immolation of Gogol by Ilya Repin

Self immolation of Gogol by Ilya Repin

Known picture Repin: “Self-immolation of Gogol.” In the end, each viewer adds something of his own to the work of painting, and it is impossible to prove that he sees something in this picture that others do not see. Among professional painters, this painting by Repin sometimes evokes reviews rather skeptical, and sometimes even outraged.

Some believe that there is an illegal invasion of “literature” in painting. It is possible to hear even more harsh assessments, which see in this work the substitution of Gogol’s spiritual tragedy by some purely physiological collision. I can’t see anything. I see something completely different. I see that not a single person, who expressed his opinion about the tragedy of Gogol, even such a deep analyst like Merezhkovsky, was not as astute and deep as the close-minded and usually not at all deep Repin. When, being free from professional prejudices, you look into this picture, you feel involuntarily drawn into the spiritual abyss through successive psychophysical layers.

At first you see a patient, half-crazed, maybe even completely mad, exhausted in the struggle with some, perhaps, hallucinatory vision. At the same time, you feel a mixture of condolences and that unconscious, involuntary repulsion, which is characteristic of “mentally normal” people in contact with the mentally ill. But this layer subsides like a husk; suddenly you discern the face of a human being, distorted by death agony, who brought and sacrificed to someone all his most precious, all that he lived: the most cherished thoughts, favorite creations, innermost dreams, the whole meaning of life.

In the fading eyes, in twisted lips – the horror and despair of genuine self-immolation. The horror is transmitted to the viewer, mixed with pity, and it seems that such a heat of feelings cannot withstand the heart. And then the third layer becomes visible – I don’t know, however, whether the last one is. The same fading eyes, the same lips, either cramped, or a wild, desperate smile, begin to radiate a childish, clean, unshakable faith and the love with which the sobbing child falls to the mother’s lap. “I gave everything to you, – accept me, beloved God! Comfort, surround!” – say the eyes of the dying.

And the artist’s miracle is that already in the very prayer of these eyes there is an answer, they already see the Great Protector, embracing and accepting this suffering soul in the bosom of love. The one who passes through all these layers of the amazing Repin creation will not doubt another, the highest, all comforting and justifying: that the gates of Sinclit are thrown wide open before Gogol, as before his beloved of his sons.

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