The Last Tavern at the City Gates. 1868
51.5 х 65.8 Oil on canvas Tretyakov Gallery, Hall 17

In the late 1860s, V.G. Perov’s creative work undergoes a number of stylistic changes: the artist leaves behind the abundance of characters, harsh accusatory charachterisations and diversity of colouration. The artist’s palette acquires sophistication and the subject development goes in line with wide generalisations and dramatic effects. Against a citrine sunset sky, in the gloomy light of a cold winter evening, the tsarist eagles on the outpost seem to be an evil symbol. The window panes of the inn are spreading a dim light; inside, peasants that have come to town are spending their misery daily wage on drink. On the sledge, we see a miserable figure muffled up in a shawl that huddles up with chill under the gusty wind. It is a peasant woman waiting for her errant breadwinner. The painting’s space plays a strong tragic role; the dark grey and brown tones applied with expressive brushstrokes are like sad accords enhancing the feeling of melancholy and despair. There is not even the slightest glimpse of hope, only the frost is freezing the body to the bone in this bleak, gloomy place. Perov’s mature work reveals a motif of deep compassion for man as a victim of cruel social injustice.

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