Description of the picture:
Attack by surprise – Vasily Vereshchagin. 1871. Oil on canvas. 82 x 207 cm.
This picture was included in the series “Barbaras” and refers to the “Turkestan” period of the artist’s work. It was written, so to speak, “in hot pursuit.” The artist personally survived the sudden attack of the enemy and was literally on the verge of death.
The painting depicts a raid of enemy cavalry on the location of Russian troops. According to the enemy’s outfits, their banners and weapons, as well as the “colonial” summer uniform of Russian soldiers, it is clear that the case is happening somewhere in Central Asia, but a specific place is not indicated. The canvas reflects any of the many battles in which Russian soldiers died.
The composition of the picture is panoramic and covers a large area. To the left of the viewer are the light tents of the Russian military camp, to the left a wave of formidable local horsemen armed to the teeth. By the horror of the soldiers fleeing from them towards the tents, it becomes clear that the attack was sudden, no one was waiting for him.
Although the artist was accused by many military men of disrespect for the Russian soldiers due to the fact that he portrayed some of them in a stampede from the enemy, it seems that they did not understand the main idea of the picture. And it consists in the fact that the Russians exclusively courageously defended themselves and their colleagues, in fact, already being doomed to death. This is evidenced by a close-knit group of soldiers who closely closed their ranks and bristled with rifles with attached bayonets. The fact that these are not lonely heroes is also indicated by the background of the canvas. It shows that several more soldiers are running to the armed group to help from the tents – they are not running away, saving their lives, but are joining those who will defend themselves to the last. It is clear that they will not be able to confront the enemy and die, but they did not run, did not flinch, but rendered the maximum possible resistance to the enemy.
The painting celebrates the heroism of the soldiers and officers of the Russian army and emphasizes the senseless cruelty of their death."