In 1867 in Florence, Ge wrote a picture of the “Messengers of the Resurrection”, which no one in Russia understood or recognized. Nikolai Nikolayevich sent the canvas to the exhibition of the Academy of Arts, but they refused to attend. His friends put up a job in an art club, but she did not have success here.
The same fate befell the new work – “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane” (the first version of the painting, later reworked) – both in St. Petersburg and at the international art exhibition in Munich in 1869, where Ge sent it along with “Messengers of Resurrection.” The image, which appeared to the imagination of the artist, was considered far-fetched and speculative. He was made to understand that he did not justify the hopes placed on him. Only after many years the audience will grow to a true understanding of this story, and in those days when the artist from sunny Italy returned to the dank Petersburg and very much needed understanding and support, the audience did not accept it. But the master stubbornly followed his path, seeking his own, only to him a certain truth.
For some time, the artist moved away from religious paintings, painted portraits, landscapes. But after the picture “Christ with the disciples enters the Gethsemane garden,” Ge again turned to the Gospel texts. Now his paintings sounded like a passionate confession. He rewrote his “Gethsemane Garden.” In the night garden with deep shadows, Jesus prayed the Father: “Let this cup pass from me, however not as I want, but as You” (Matthew 26: 39) and “Thy will be done”. The deep and penetrating canvas “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane” shows us already ready for the great sacrifice of Jesus. From the first glance it is obvious that this is a strong spirit man, who without fear meets his destiny. Whatever doubts did not disturb Him, it was after the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus finally decided to endure all the prescribed tests. And he went to the end. Through suffering, pain and death – to resurrection, ascension and the Kingdom of God.
Since that time, paintings of Nikolai Ge invariably appeared in St. Petersburg every year. Cloths were removed from exhibitions, they were subjected to ecclesiastical censorship ruthless persecution, and the artist had to show them in a private apartment. But the public went to see the forbidden pictures in crowds, they argued about them, they were discussed in the process and taken abroad…
He was very pleased with the impression made: “I will shake all their brains with the suffering of Christ… I will make them cry, not be moved.” He again became unusually popular. Young artists listened to him as an apostle of the new art. He told them about a living form that could convey a feeling. He himself wrote as he taught: without a sketch, without nature and without a contour.