Mikhail Nesterov, Vesper, 1904
Mikhail Nesterov (1862-1942) was a Russian painter and pioneer of Russian Symbolism. He is best known for his portraits and religious painting and remained a devout Orthodox Christian throughout his life. Although he opposed the Bolshevik Revolution on these grounds he chose to remain in Russia until his death. Vesper refers to the evening and particularly the evening star, which at first seems to have little connection to this piece. Vespers is also the name for evening prayers, but in addition it is likely referring to the central figure. The monk or holy man is bent with age, stooping between buildings. Despite this posture, Nesterov manages to give the man a quiet dignity and gravitas, even without showing his face; perhaps this is due to Nesterov's own piety. The beautiful landscape and surroundings are achieved through Nesterov's loose brushwork and paint handling, which give the rural setting a hazy, dreamlike quality. This technique is most evident in the trees and roofs. Overall the painting feels like a meditation on the twilight of this solitary monk as he carries on into night.