He repeated the different variations of his words of gratitude with a frequency that would sometimes seem excessive. What did he find to be so special about his hometown?
Vyatka was a regular provincial Russian town never made famous by any prominent locals, major historic events or momentous landmarks. Whenever people of consequence set foot in Vyatka, they were usually in exile there, like Herzen, Saltykov-Shchedrin or Witberg.
Vyatka was not a distinguished backwoods like the Urals or Siberia, but a rustic, run-of-the-mill forested region devoid of great riches. (From the book Bear in the Sky With His Tail Awry by Erast Kuznetsov).
"They have grit in Vyatka. When there are seven of them, one person is not feared". Vyatka people prided themselves on their modesty. They bragged about their own shyness, simple-mindedness and oafishness. A Vyatka native, Vasnetsov essentially possessed all these "merits".
Yet Vyatka has a lot to offer to the heart and the mind. The town gave Vasnetsov the young boy everything it had. It endowed him with a cache of impressions from which Vasnetsov the artist would draw for decades, and which he probably never exhausted. Vasnetsov’s works contain countless Vyatka references.
Does it take an artist to really see things? We see things as best we can. But to see like this, one has to have love. Only loving talent is able to depict, reconstruct, and share these images with others through generations.
I had a soft spot for Vyatka even before I went there. I roamed the contemporary Vyatka in search of what rare oldness was still extant. Juxtaposing what I had read in his memoirs and what is actually there, I looked around through the lens of his drawings and his childhood joys. I wanted to get a feel for the town’s past, to tap into the sweet provincial atmosphere that had once fired up the artist’s imagination and gave it wings.
I sought out small things of beauty that once may have caught his eye only to resurface in his books, pulling you in with ineffable beauty. From tiny pieces of reality, I tried to put the folk tale world of Vyatka together, the world Vasnetsov’s love for his hometown has kept alive and warm for us.
Vyatka is a wonderful town with a great past, present and future.