This magnificent painting is a triumph of naturalistic painting as well as being an important example of Soviet Socialist Realism. The artist declared that "to work without too much cleverness, without fuss, constantly learning from nature, drinking in the true source of eternal freshness and understanding life – that is true happiness". He proposed that such a creative position was the best to experience the principles of Socialist Realism.
The prime version of this work is in the Tretyakov Gallery and had originally been commissioned by Stalin in order that this important image, representing the pre-eminence of Soviet Union artistry, could be displayed in various international exhibitions. Laktionov received orders for copies of this work from a number of museums in the USSR and abroad and, in 1948, he was awarded the Stalin prize for the prime version of this composition.
Laktionov's creative work has often been described as naturalistic and, in recent years, critics have regarded his work in the context of early photo-realism. Fundamentally, however, Laktionov continued the tradition of Alexsandr Deyneka in his ability to convey a positive message within the context of a difficult subject. As a family reads a letter from the front line, there is no sense that the letter contains details of horror and death. The mother, children and friends seem to glow with happiness and relief and the artist has employed a bright and saturated palette.
Oil on canvas
225 × 155 cm; 88½ × 61 in.
From 1926–1929 Laktionov studied at art school in Rostov on Don. Between 1932–1938 he studied at the Institute for Painting , Sculpture and Architecture of the Academy of Arts under I. I. Brodsky, then, fr om 1938–1944 he continued his studies under I. E. Grabar. Laktionov was a full member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR, Laureate of the State Award of the USSR, Laureate of the Lenin Award and was awarded the Order of Lenin.