Nikolai Yaroshenko (1846 – 1898): A Prisoner in His Cell

Nikolai Yaroshenko (1846 – 1898): A Prisoner in His Cell

1/27/2021, 1:33:01 PM
Nikolai Yaroshenko (1846 – 1898): A Prisoner in His Cell, 1878, Oil on canvas, 143.1 х 107.6 cm, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow The painting here by 19th century Russian artist Nikolai Yaroshenko and the idea of being a prisoner could be interpreted differently than the title would first indicate. Sure, this barren, stone-walled environment could clearly be a prison cell. But there is some level of interpretation as to whether he’s really in an actual prison or one of his own contemplation. This could simply be the quiet spot that he’s chosen to look out from, looking for light without a view, somewhere to think for a bit. The prisoner is on the borderline of light and darkness, whether the situation is based in reality or the mind. Yaroshenko didn’t seem to paint the man with any sense of foreboding, or even of peace. He really seems to be on that border, contemplating which side will win today. It may be the real trick of the present painting, offering a simple view with many emotional complexities. It’s easier to paint the frustration or anger of being a prisoner, even the melancholy of the moment. But Yaroshenko instead gave the viewer a choice to drift towards the light or the dark, a moment to decide their own fate. (by Russell Dickerson)

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