Discover the painting “Hunters at Rest” by Vasily Grigoryevich Perov

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“Hunters at Rest” was painted by the Russian artist Vasily Grigoryevich Perov in 1871. It is a 119 X 183 cm oil on canvas which is at the Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow. If you pay attention to the painting you will notice that Perov intentionally drew some absurdities in the objects like the preys, the place of the riffles, and the horn which was done to emphasize the atmosphere of hunting fiction.

This picture is related to the late period of Perov’s work, and if in the first half of his period of creativity he depicted sad pictures of folk life, during the second half of his work, Perov paid more attention to everyday scenes from the life of ordinary people.

There are 3 versions of this painting. In 1877, the artist painted a copy of the painting with a plot more schematic, simpler, and a simpler color scheme. This second painting is kept in the Russian Museum, and the third version of the picture is in the Art Museum. V. V. Vereshchagin in Nikolaev.

Vasily Grigorievich Perov was a passionate hunter, so this was a topic familiar to him. Already, in 1870 Perov painted the canvas “Bird-catcher”, for which he received the title of professor, as well as a teacher’s position at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. 

During the 70s, the artist also creates several more paintings dedicated to the “hunting theme”: “Fisherman” ( 1871 ), “Botanist” ( 1874 ), “Pigeon” ( 1874 ), “Fishing” ( 1878 ). 


“Hunters at Rest” is based some of Perov Moscow friends. He portrayed D. P. Kuvshinnikov, a well-known doctor in Moscow and a great lover of rifle hunting for the image of the narrator. The doctor V. V. Bessonov became the prototype of the skeptic hunter and for the image of a young hunter, Perov portrayed the 26-year-old N. M. Nagornov.

Description of the painting

“Hunters at Rest” is a combination of a genre everyday painting, a landscape , and a still life of hunting items and game.

This whole scene takes place against a rather gloomy landscape. The sky is cloudy, migratory birds are flying away, and the grass already faded, everything speaks of autumn, falling asleep, anticipation of winter and brings a disturbing undertone to its comic content. This gloomy landscape is used to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the central figures of the picture.

The light in the picture is concentrated on the faces and hands of the characters. It is an old technique, from the time of the Renaissance, which allows the artist to more fully reveal the inner world of his models. 

"Hunters at Rest" part hunter by Perov

In contrast to the sad nature in the center of the composition, the artist placed three hunters of different social origins and in excellent mood. All of them united by hunting, are seen talking to each other. They are at rest after a successful hunt as evidenced by the painting of a carcass of a hare and a black grouse. On a spread rag there is a loaf of bread, a flask of strong spirits, cups.

The gray-whiskered man on the left is an elderly, experienced hunter, apparently one of the impoverished nobles, who talks with enthusiasm and passion about his hunting “exploits”. He seems to be gesticulating and almost jumping on the spot, as he passionately tells his story, trying to support his speech with impressive facial expressions to make young people who have seen little believe him.

The second, younger than the storyteller, looks like a peasant. He lies on the faded grass facing the viewer, leaning on the ground with one hand, and rubbing his temple with the other, smoothing his disheveled hair knocked out from under his battered hat. He listens with visible interest to the painfully eloquent speaker with a sly smirk, thinking, we heard about such miracles, lie more. 

The third, on the right, a gullible young novice neatly dressed, greedily absorbs every word of his experienced comrade. He froze, carried away by the exciting fable and innocently believing his older comrade, even forgetting to light the cigarette that he is holding in his right hand.

Hunters note absurdities in some objects which are believed to have been drawn intentionally to emphasize the atmosphere of hunting fiction. As exemple, the horn is used when dogs drive the game, and is useless for rifle hunting and with only one dog.  The riffles are carelessly laying on the ground, and the prey cannot be in the same place since the hare lives in an open area like in fields, or steppe, and hazel grouses are forest dwellers. 

The simplicity of the canvas hides the deep philosophical content . The heroes of different ages symbolize life cycles, when naive youth eagerly learns the world, then comes maturity and experience which has seen a lot and is skeptical about life. Last maturity is replaced by old age which knows how to find positive everywhere and often indulges in memories constantly falling into the idealization of the past.


The general public fell in love with the canvas but the critics were mixed. So, if Stasov highly appreciated the picture and compared it with Turgenev ‘s hunting stories , then Saltykov-Shchedrin criticized it. For him the faces of the characters seemed to be overly simulated, however such a technique allows to more clearly describe the character and inner world of the characters, and to reveal the symbolic component of the picture.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky also mentioned the painting in his diaries:

The picture has long been known to everyone: “Hunters at rest”; one lies ardently and deliberately, the other listens and believes with all his might, and the third does not believe anything, lay down right there and laughs … What a charm! <…> We almost hear and know what he is talking about, we know the whole turn of his lies, his style, his feelings.- F. M. Dostoevsky. Writer’s diary

A huge number of reproductions and copies of the painting were released in Soviet times. There were legends about three paintings painted by Perov, but the third painting was found only in 1984. 

I hope you enjoyed this painting as much as I did

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