Lake Ivanov and Kramskoy, Nikolay Gay
Turns to New Testament subjects in his search for the solution of moral and philosophical problems. As distinct from Kramskoy the analyst, Gay inclines to pathetics; feeling cramped by the artistic approach of the members of the Society for Circulating Art Exhibitions, the painter seeks new expressive means.
"What is truth?" asks Pontius Pilate of Christ in the picture of that name. “Is it not to him, replete and shining, that the truth belongs?” asks also the painter.
As if to support Pilate’s claim to be the possessor of truth a sun beam plays on his sturdy figure warming it, making it radiate arrogant conceit. Uncompromisingly, sharp are paints laid by Gay, cool greens alternating with fiery red-dish-browns. There is no harmony between the light falling on Pilate and the shadow enveloping Christ, pressed against the wall. To Gay these are two elements, two levels of existence. Kept in the shade, the bound Christ seems to be looking through Pilate. He deems it superfluous to argue commonplace truths.
Ruches do not lure him, suffering does not frighten him. Accessible to him are lofty moral spheres and, therefore, there is no conflict, nor struggle between the personages of the canvas.
The question asked by Pilate should be addressed by the spectator to himself, for the struggle between the two principles goes on also in his own soul, and it is by one’s life itself everyone should answer it.