This is the first significant picture that revealed the originality of Nesterov’s work. Its theme was not so new, many artists of academic and peredvizhnichnogo direction addressed to it. But in the first, the image of the desert-bearer turned out to be a kindly, semi-official, while the latter were inclined to take a critical view of him and condemn him for withdrawing from the world.
Nesterov was the first with such sincerity and power to poeticize a man who abandoned the vain worldly passions and found happiness in the solitude and silence of nature. His old monk is a simpleton, with a naive faith in God, not experienced in religious philosophical philosophies, but pure in heart, sinless, close to the earth, and this makes him so happy.
Nesterov’s hero was inspired by Russian literature – Pimen in Pushkin’s Boris Godunov, Soboryanami and other heroes, especially the elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov, F. Dostoyevsky. But Nesterov found this human type in life. He wrote his descendant from the father of Gordei, the monk of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, attracted by his childish smile and eyes glowing with infinite kindness.
New for Russian painting was not only the image of the old man, but also the landscape, remarkable for its spirituality. He is devoid of external beauties, gray and meager in his nakedness of early winter, but poignantly poetic. In it there is a stunted Christmas tree, clusters of red mountain ash – favorite Nesterov’s “heroes”.
The artist treats them as living beings. A deep inner way connects man and nature. In the brownish-gray coloring of the painting, the effect of peredvizhnicheskogo painting is still preserved, but this is already the unique Nesterov world of Holy Russia.