In 1901, wishing to deepen his acquaintance with the spiritual world of Russian monasteries, the artist went on a journey to the Solovetsky Monastery in the White Sea.
The brothers of the monastery – peasants of the northern provinces and Siberia struck him with intelligence, strength, and efficiency. “With an ax and a saw in the forest, we pray to God,” they said of themselves. All nature was for them a holy temple. Animals and birds here were not afraid of man, because he did not touch them without special need. Once a year the monastery’s cathedral made a decision to catch for the needs of the monastery a certain number of bears, deer, hares, foxes. All the excess that fell into the trap and snare in excess of the conciliar decree, released at will.
One of the best Nesterov paintings “Silence”. The bay at the foot of Rapier Mountain. The mysterious light of the white night. In the still waters, a dark, forested mountain is reflected. Like an echo, the figures of monks in boats, a gray-bearded old man and a young man repeat each other. The state of nature is sensitively caught by the artist, but he does not follow the nature passively. Nesterov’s mastery of composition here manifests itself in her laconism, the choice of large plans, the stinginess of generalizing lines. Almost literal repetition of the silhouettes of monks was used by Nesterov as a rhythm in music.
It is noteworthy that in his works on “monastic” themes Nesterov never portrayed any bishops, magnificent services with their magnificent ceremonies, nor the expiring golden interiors of the church. Noting the characteristic features of Nesterov’s religious paintings, Durylin wrote:
“Nesterov always brings his monastic monks out of cells, from churches, from monastery walls – leads them to the forest wilderness and leaves them alone with their prayer, face to face with life-giving nature, alone with Christmas trees and birches, and gives them a bird to the interlocutors and beasts… This theme was a constant, unchallenged from Nesterov’s theme – the blessed communication of a believer with nature. “