Ivan Shishkin is known in Russian landscape painting as a composer of hymns to the wealth and grandeur of Russian nature. Shishkin is attracted by the epic tranquility of the Russian forest, the vastness of ripe cornfields. Not only does he share with the spectator his admiration of the perfection of nature, but also his own view of it as the source of the welfare of the country and its people. Hence the profound national feeling of Shishkin's landscapes, their measured composition and close links with the popular ideas about the beauty of one's native land. Simultaneously Shishkin studied nature both as an artist and a naturalist. Pedantically accurate in communicating details and particulars, an expert in the anatomy of trees, of the structure of the soil, of the wild life of the fields and woods, Shishkin strove also to subordinate accuracy to the expressiveness of the whole.
For Shishkin and his contemporaries, the image of nature could not be separated from the idea of Russia, its people and their destiny.
The famous critic Stassov described Shishkin’s paintings as “landscapes for heroes,” but at the same time, Shishkin attempted the most exact and scientific approach to the subject represented. This was noted by his friend, the painter Kramskoy: “The forest is wild, the ferruginous water of the stream is dark yellow, with the stream bed covered in rocks...”. Shishkin has been described as “a realist with deep inner convictions who knew how to feel deeply and to love nature with a passion...”. But with all of this in mind, it must be pointed out that the artist introduces contrasts into his landscape, making it theatrical and giving us a kind of “spectacle of nature.”