In the open field on combat duty, the main epic hero-defenders: Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich. They look around the neighborhood - is it not possible to see the enemy? Ali is not going where some injustice is. With this plot, Vasnetsov wanted on the threshold of the twentieth century to designate the continuity of the heroic past of the Russian people with its great future. The heroes here are not specific epic characters, but an allegory of creative forces. The field is not a specific place on the map, but the whole of Russia.
The first sketch of the painting, the beginning of the 1870s
The bogatyrs "lived" at different times and could "meet" only in the painting by Vasnetsov. When Ilya Muromets was the way the artist depicted him, Dobrynya should have been an old man, and Alyosha Popovich - a boy.
Behind the heroes are the graves of warriors who fell in battles. In the foreground - young shoots as a symbol of future generations. Heroes are located between the symbols of the past and the future as links in an endless chain of defenders of the Motherland.
Vasnetsov made the first sketch of the picture in Paris in the early 1870s in the workshop of his friend Vasily Polenov. Viktor Mikhailovich wanted to give this trifle to a friend, to which the latter replied: “Give when the painting is complete”.
"The Knight at the Crossroads", 1882
The implementation of the plan became for Vasnetsov, as he himself said, “a duty, an obligation to the people who [raised up] me, educated me, armed me with skill”. “I worked on“ The Bogatyrs ”, maybe not always with due intensity, but they were always in front of me, the heart was always attracted to them and the hand was stretching!” The painter recognized.
The huge canvas moved with the artist and his family from the apartment to the apartment; from Moscow to Kiev and back; in the summer - out of town. Vasnetsov's son Alexey recalled: “The Bogatyrs” - this was for us ... not a picture, but something necessary in life — a constant atmosphere of life, like walls, ceilings, lunch, tea ... ".
Vasnetsov reworked individual places several times. Especially for a long time he searched for the image of Dobrynia Nikitich. The sketch was taken from a single peasant, and the details from portraits of relatives. As a result, the face of Dobrynia became a collective type of Vasnetsovs.
The artist was collecting Ilya Muromets' face from the commoners. And for Alesha Popovich posed the younger son of Savva Mamontov, Andrei. By the way, from the stables of Mamontov and the bogatyr horses - they were brought into the field to Vasnetsov, where he actually settled to paint a picture.
The fate of the artist
Vasnetsov was born in the family of a Vyatka priest and was initially going to follow in his father’s footsteps. But in the last year of the seminary, he left school and went to Petersburg to enter the Academy of Arts.
Vasnetsov at the painting "Warriors". Moscow, 1898
The first time Vasnetsov wrote on household subjects. Subsequently, he developed the so-called "Vasnetsov style" - epic-historical based on a strong patriotic and religious bias.
Vasnetsov acted in all kinds: he was a historical painter, a religious painter, a portrait painter, a genre painter, a decorator, and a graphic artist. In addition, he was an architect - according to his designs, a church was built in Abramtsevo, the facade of the Tretyakov Gallery, the Tsvetkov Gallery and his own house with a workshop in Trinity Lane.