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It is no coincidence that Kustodiev chose one of the most significant rituals for the people as the theme for his work. The artist’s unique idea was to show the attractive for him sides of the nationwide way of life, part of which is a holiday that determines the optimistic mood of his canvas. The solemnity of the church festival is captured by the painter expressively and vividly.
The picture is a combination of plot composition with landscape elements: groups of people and the sacred ritual actions with snowdrifts, snow-covered trees, roofs and a temple towering over the whole composition. The artist’s look at the image is unusual: he watches what is happening from above, as if soaring over a mass of people. In some places, snow-covered tree branches obscure the crowd.
The artist pays attention to every detail. In the foreground, a group of priests in solemn vestments of red and golden colors perform a ritual of blessing water near the ice-hole in the shape of a cross. Nearby you can see a boat frozen in ice, also covered with snow. A huge number of people lined up on a snowy road between the trees are waiting for the consecrated water to be collected. In the distance, horse-drawn sleighs move along the road.
The entire canvas is penetrated by the light that gives it the color of snow, although its shades are diverse - from bluish and gray where the shadow falls, to dazzling in the sun. Elegant festive colors of the canvas create an elevated, solemn mood among the audience, make you tune in to the emotional state of spiritual relationship with the characters of the canvas.
Kustodiev’s proximity to the people was expressed in respect for traditions, knowledge of the customs and everyday life of the people. The canvas is characterized by academic professionalism and decorativeness, characteristic of the style of his time. The picture sparkles with optimism and bright colors, expresses the national spirit and the majesty of the nature of the native country.