Painting of the Week / Thomas Abbs

Painting of the Week: 66

Inspection of the Old House

Ivan Kramskoi (1837-1887), Inspection of the Old Room, 1874, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

This week I moved house. Where a walk from the kitchen to the bedroom had for a while been punctuated by the rustle of strewn newspaper and the effusive pop of bubble wrap, life quickly changed from being cluttered to boxed up.

Languorous and intimate, Ivan Kramskoi’s Inspection of the Old House delicately captures the moment between an old life ending and a new one beginning. Graceful, fragile, with men resembling stopped clocks (a death?), saying farewell to a house can be overwhelming. Where once every infinitesimal thing inside was placed in harmony with one another, with the hope of bringing out at least some personality, order suddenly becomes intermingled and confused.

An example of 19th century realism, Ivan Kramskoi’s paintings exist in a place between portraiture and genre. An intellectual leader of the Russian democratic art movement (often called The Wanderers), his subjects – religious or contemporary – disclose complex personalities, emotion and fates. Watching like sentinels, with knees on the verge of buckling, these fates look uncertain.

Don’t worry, mine isn’t, in case you were worried. TA

A larger image of the painting can be viewed here.


One thought on “Painting of the Week: 66

  1. ‘The moment between an old life ending and a new beginning’

    That was Kramskoi’s initial intent when he planned to have in the picture a rich merchant following in the footsteps of the old owner. Then, the artist resolved just to show ‘an old life ending’, – according to his contemporaries – depicting himself as the previous owner.

    Thank you for your wonderful reminder of this painting. It’s not one of the most visible works in the Tretyakov collection, but definitely one of the loudest.

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