The seventies, replaced by the pathos of the negations of the sixties, were marked by the search for a positive ideal. Such ideals were found among the Russian intelligentsia. At this time Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov begins to order portraits of the leaders of Russian culture. Many of the portraits are Dostoevsky. The Pogodin. Maikov. Dahl. Turgenev – were written by Perov. Recognized as public and critical by the master of genre painting, he unexpectedly becomes a portraitist. Although Perov retains the thinking of a genre painter even in the portrait: according to few details, posture, gesture, costume, we can always imagine how the person depicted by him talks, walks, his habits, his surroundings.
Most of his models are writers. Literature was central to the culture of that time. The writer was perceived as a living embodiment of public conscience, he was the “ruler of doom”, he was approached for solving the most burning moral and social issues. This is how Feodor Dostoevsky appears at Perov.
No less remarkable is the portrait of Vladimir Ivanovich Dal, a writer, ethnographer, author of the famous “Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language”, created by him in the last year of his life. The dry old man sitting in the armchair, calmly folded his arms, as though he were contemplating the depths of his past. In the image of Dal, the images of the holy elders of Ancient Rus shine through: the art of the second half of the nineteenth century sought the bearers of the ideals of spirituality and wisdom not so much among the ministers of the church as among the intelligentsia.