Tuesday, September 27, 2011

At the Feet of Tolstoy


This is my favourite portrait of Lev Tolstoy, the great Russian writer.

It is different from others first of all because Tolstoy is barefoot in it. He is standing, in a pensive mood, on a path in the woods, probably at his estate Yasnaya Polyana (which means Clear Glade or Bright Clearing) as though drawing power from Mother Earth.

The portrait was done when Tolstoy was at the peak of his world-wide fame as a writer and thinker. His social philosophy became known as Tolsltoyism or Christian Anarchism. Tolstoy's word had more power in Russia than that of the tsarist government. His theory of non-violent public disobedience influenced such figures of the 20th Century as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

On an official visit to Russia Prime Minister Indira Gandhi went to see Tolstoy's home. As a sign of respect for the man whose ideas helped India gain independence she walked barefoot where Tolstoy stood being sketched for that portrait.

Picture: Tolstoy Barefoot, 1901, by Ilya Repin, o/c, 207 x 73 cm, Russian State Museum, St.Petersburg. Photo file from here.    

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