A tireless traveler, Vereshchagin went to India in the spring of 1874 and spent two years studying various regions of the country. He was accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth Kondratyevna (nee Elizabeth Maria Fisher), who kept track notes, which later became the basis for the book of both Vereshchagins about their trip. In 1882-1883, the artist undertook a second journey through India, lasting more than four months. For both times in the country Vereshchagin visited Bombay on the west and Madras on its east coast, in the cities of the center of the country – Agra, Delhi and others, visited the famous ancient temples of Ellora, carved into the rocks, and the young by the Indian standards, the city of Jaipur, created in the XVIII century, the will of the ruler-maharaja on a mathematically strict plan. He traveled through the Western Himalayas – to Muslim Kashmir, the crossroads of the ancient ways of Asia, and in Ladakh, the focus of Buddhist monasteries and memorable stupas,
an area called “small Tibet”. He traveled to the Eastern Himalayas – the kingdom of Nepal and the “land of heavenly steps” of Sikkim, made an ascent to a great height on one of the world’s greatest mountains – the five-headed Kanchenjung.
Only for the first trip he did about 150 sketches, as a rule, so completed in the images and character of the embodiment of genre scenes, landscapes, architectural motifs or types of inhabitants of India, that they can be considered small pictures. Most of these paintings belong to the most beautiful creatures throughout Vereshchagin’s work. They are full of sunlight, they are usually built on an effective decorative combination of three or four primary colors, clean and sonorous, on local spots that convey the general impression and are supplemented by careful study of the smallest details in the drawing. No wonder Vereshchagin, despite the mention of the unbearable heat and stuffiness, the hordes of mosquitoes, the disease of local fever, admits in his correspondence in the inexhaustible interest in the beauty of the “wonderful
He was going to write at least two cycles of paintings about India, in one to show the greatness and diversity of its nature, the types of architecture – “the finest monuments”, in another, consisting of 20-30 canvases, – “the history of India’s beating of Englishmen.” This grandiose plan was not destined to be realized because of the beginning of the Russian-Turkish war, which the artist went to. He managed to perform only two pictures: a huge image of the magnificent procession of elephants of the English and native authorities in Jaipur and the scene of the prayer of the former ruler of India, the Great Mogul, almost powerless by the British, in his whimsically decorated mosque in Delhi. The first of these works is now in the museum of the city of Calcutta in India, the second – in the Museum of Boston in the United States. About 40 etudes Tretyakov acquired, completing his collection of art Vereshchagin.
Purely landscape images are typical for the Indian cycle. In the sketch “The Himalayas in the Evening” Vereshchagin conveys the sensation of two worlds that struck him, which later will disturb Nicholas Roerich in his own way, – the blue twilight of the night that is approaching the highlands and the “super-rich structure” (Roerich) of powerful and majestic peaks, sunlit by the sun.
Etude “Glacier on the road from Kashmir to Ladakh” develops the theme of power and solemn beauty of the mountains. Descending from the icy heights between the spurs of mountain giants, the coils of an icy river can be appreciated on their own merits when you compare them with figures of horsemen climbing along the stone rock trail, barely noticeable in the left corner of the canvas.