CHEKHOV, Anton Pavlovich (1860-1904). Autograph letter signed ('A. Chekhov') to 'My dear Nikodim Pavlovich' (Kondakov, 1844-1925, academician and historian), Yalta, '2 March 1901', in Russian. 4 pages, 8vo, one bifolium, folded once (long tear at fold).
CHEKHOV TO KONDAKOV ON THE DECLINE OF ICON PAINTING, AND TOLSTOY'S EXCOMMUNICATION. Chekhov opens by thanking Kondakov for the book he sent, perhaps Sovremennoe polozhenie russkoi ikonopisi, it 'is written with a lot of feeling; many parts of it are passionate', and discusses commissions received by his mother's relatives, who were icon painters. He comments that 'the talent of common people is many faceted and without limit, but it cannot resurrect what has died... Icon painting lived and was strong while it was art, not craft. When the 'art of painting' evolved in Russia, and painters started getting trained, and becoming nobility, then the Vasnetsovs, and the Ivanovs appeared, but in Kholui and Palekh only craftsmen remained, so icon-painting became a craft'. He replies to Kondakov's thoughts on theatre, 'I have not read 'Henschel'... however I like Hauptmann and consider him a great playwright'. Chekhov discusses his health, then comments on Tolstoy's recent excommunication: 'people laughed... the bishops should not have inserted Slavic text into their proclamation. It's insincere, or smells insincere', before closing 'with sincere respect and devotion'. Kondakov and Chekhov maintained a good correspondence and saw each other regularly. In 1899 the two men collaborated on staging the monastery scene from Boris Godunov to benefit the Pushkin School, with Pimen played by Kondakov himself (Karlinsky, p.344). Karlinsky, Anton Chekhov's Life and Thought, Chicago, 1997.