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The great artist Vasily Surikov was very fond of his native lands of Siberia. This was the reason for the creation of his works in the historical genre. Ermak’s struggle with the Tatars was a very interesting topic for the painter.
The sketch “Cossacks in a boat” was created in 1892 in Krasnoyarsk. Later it became a fragment, written in 1895, of the painting “The Conquest of Siberia by Ermak”. On it, the artist described a scene from the famous battle of the Cossack army with the Tatar invaders. This battle became decisive, and the Russian lands were forever freed from the heavy oppression of the Horde tribes.
Surikov, starting work on the picture, intended to portray the battle truthfully, as historical sources describe. But nevertheless, he decided that the scene of the battle of the soldiers in the cold waters of the Irtysh would look more exciting and dramatic than on hard ground.
The sketch depicts four men sailing in a wooden boat. The image of each of them is written expressively. Their individuality and desire for the goal are emphasized.
Cossacks know that the further life of their native people depends on the outcome of this battle. Their clothes in appearance correspond to the Cossack form of the XVI century. Each of the men holds heavy guns in their hands.
The image of a Cossack in a red pea jacket with his back turned to the viewer is a very successful compositional solution. His pose is full of dynamism. He reclines in the bow of the boat and opens open fire on the enemy.
In order to fill the faces of the heroes of the canvas with expressiveness and life emotions, the artist Vasily Surikov spent the whole summer on the banks of the Don. There he talked with his countrymen, whose appearance became the prototype of the Cossacks depicted in the picture. This historical work brought the artist many pleasant moments, therefore, ending it, Surikov felt a slight sadness.
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