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Painting “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane”, Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi – description

Description of the picture:

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane – Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi. 1901. Oil on canvas. 107.5×143.5 cm
At the end of the 19th century, the dawn of Russian philosophical thought came, and art, as a way of knowing and displaying the world around us, could not remain on the side of this scientific and humanitarian surge.

It is not surprising that many global thoughts about the problems of the universe, sin, atonement and forgiveness, about the place of man in the Universe, also affected Kuindzhi. Who, if not him, who knows how to discern the incredible beauty in everyday life, who is able to discover the inner content of a simple landscape, catch the mood and convey it on the canvas, do not reflect on the world order. Perhaps the most philosophical and mysterious work of the master is “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

The biblical story tells how Jesus came to Gethsemane immediately after the Last Supper, taking with him only three of his disciples. Several times he went into the depths of the garden in order to offer prayer alone and indulge in suffering because of his inevitable fate. In the most difficult moments, an angel appeared to him to strengthen his spirit. The guards led by the traitor Judas will already lead him out of the garden.

As you can see, none of this is in the picture. The master’s only work on the gospel story is laconic and has a dark color. We are barely able to make out trees protruding from the night darkness. The author did not set as his goal the narrative disclosure of the storyline, but pursued artistic and coloristic tasks – to depict the effect of moonlight, snatching the hero out of the dark, and thereby creating the core of the composition, drama and climax.

Unfortunately, Kuindzhi did not leave any written hints or explanations about this work of his, so the mystical picture, where Christ, in the mysterious radiance of the moon, enters the dark gallery of the garden, remains the most mysterious of the painter’s entire creative heritage.

The author first showed the work in 1901 after 20 years of absolute silence. The audience was chosen by Arkhip Kuindzhi himself – he invited 4 students to his house. The author presented 4 new canvases, among which the painting “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane” stood out as a surprise to the Russian master of the poetic landscape. The next mini-exhibition took place a little later, and again only for a limited circle of people. Among the guests of Kuindzhi were a chemist Dmitry Mendeleev with his wife and writer Jerome Yasinsky, who composed an enthusiastic article about this home exhibition – “A Magic Session by A. I. Kuindzhi”."

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