The summer of 1872, Kuindzhi spent on Lake Ladoga, on the island of Valaam. As a result, pictures appeared: “Ladoga Lake” (1872), “On the Island of Valaam” (1873). These landscapes stand at the crossroads of the realistic mastery of nature and the residual influence of romantic-academic stylistics. According to Konstantin Kavelin, ethics is a “hygiene of the spirit.” From such a conviction came the moral inspiration of the Russian landscape, including the landscapes of Kuindzhi.
About the painting “On the island of Valaam” Repin said that it was written in an “amazing silver tone”. From a picturesque point of view, the picture is flawless. Its image is poured into the stream of twilight landscapes, so characteristic of the Savrasovsko-Vasilievsky direction, with a single, but essential caveat: the image is devoid of Savrasian sincerity. He is more dramatic than lyrical. The position of this picture in the Russian landscape is special. It is a kind of link between late academic romanticism and realism.
In the “Ladoga Lake” a distinct tribute to the romantic perception was reflected in the foreground, as if invisible by a storm of... light. The artist was pleased with the picture. Being sold from the exhibition to an individual, she might get lost. But Kuindzhi bought it from the owner a year later. The canvas was in the artist’s studio until his death. The picture was really good. Kuindzhi overcame in it the overstrain in the transmission of the weather conditions inherent in the works of late romantics. The landscape is executed gracefully: thin light shades, picturesque wholeness of the tone letter are removed by light contrasts, which, as a rule, give a dramatic sensation.
With the picture “Lake Ladoga” an amazing and revealing history occurred. Ten years after its creation, the artist Sudkovsky wrote the painting “Dead calm”, where he will repeat the found Kuindzhi motif of a rocky bottom through the water. Angry Kuindzhi insisted that AS Suvorin, a famous journalist and publisher, wrote an article on the protection of copyright. Although in his social views Kuindzhi was an idealist, dreaming to transform life on the basis of brotherhood and mutual assistance, but when faced with manifestations of injustice, he became firm and adamant.