Vas. Ostr. 5th line, house 10, apt. of Naumov
19 October, '75
MY DEAR généralissime.
You cannot doubt how much your energetic and distantly gazing face, now residing on my work table,41 pushes me towards all sorts of good things. Enormous thanks to you, my dear. I often look upon you: all concentrated, looking into the distance, as though you sensed something ahead of you; power and the knowledge of truth are engraved in each wrinkle--good work, Ilya Repin! Enormous thanks to you! It is this fine, living gaze into the distance, into the future, that pushes me on. When I think of certain artists "behind the barrier [Schlagbaum]," I feel not merely anguish, but some sort of slushy sorcery. All they long to do--is to drizzle drop by drop, and all in such equal precious little drops; it amuses them, but to a man it's distressing and boring; break through, my good man, as living people break through, show whether you have claws or web-feet; whether you're a beast or some sort of amphibian. You can't!--and how about the barrier? Without reason, without will, they've chained themselves--these artists, fettered by tradition, imagine they're doing something important, but they're merely proving the law of inertia.
All this wouldn't be so bad, though rather antipathetic, if only they--these artists, would never before have seized the staff of a different sort of banner and had never tried "to raise it proudly before humanity." As long as they were held in Balakirev's iron grip, they breathed deep breaths with his powerful lungs (though not quite as his heroic breast did), setting themselves tasks that would have worried even great men. As soon as Balakirev's iron grip was relaxed they felt tired and in need of rest: where to find this rest?--in tradition, of course, "as our forefathers did, so will we." They have put away the glorious banner of battle in some secret hiding-place, hiding it carefully and locking it behind seven locks and seven doors.--They have rested and relaxed. Without a banner, without desire, neither seeing nor wishing to see into the distance, they plod away at things already done long before and which no one summons them to do again. And there, from time to time, the croaking frogs [critics], tenderly puffing in their inherited swamp, pass out to them--these artists--their little____________________