Lives of the Artists XIV

Mighty Kuindzhi was not only a great artist but also a great teacher of life. His private life was unusual, solitary, and only his closest disciples knew the depth of his soul. Exactly at noon, he climbed to the roof of his house, and as soon as the fortress cannon thundered midday, thousands of birds would flock around him. He fed them out of his hands, these innumerable friends of his: pigeons, sparrows, crows, jackdaws, swallows. It seemed that all the birds of the capital gathered to him and covered his shoulders, arms and head. He would say to me, “Come closer, I’ll tell them not to be afraid of you.” This was an unforgettable spectacle of a greying, smiling man, covered with twittering little birds; it remains among the dearest of memories … One of the joys of Kuindzhi was to help the poor in a way that they did not know where the blessings came from. Unique was his whole life …

From the recollections of Nikolai Roerich, Arkhip Kuindzhi’s student.

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