"Mental math lesson in Rachinsky's school", 1895
The 19th century village school. Look at the boys' traditional peasant shoes made of birch bark! And then look at the teacher - does he look like a village man?
The teacher at the painting was a real person. Sergei Rachinsky, a mathematician and a biologist of the Moscow State University (he translated Charles Darwin's "On the Origins of Species" into Russian), returned, suddenly to many, to the village Tatevo, where he had grown up in a nobles' estate. With his own money, he opened 20 schools in that area and started teaching himself. The idea of "serving to people" was very strong among Russian intelligentsia in 1860-1880ss when educated city dwellers, urged by a sense of social injustice, began to move to villages to teach and treat.
Once Rachinsky noticed a boy in his class who loved to carve from wood and did it with visible artistic talent, unexpected in a boy no one taught to do it. Nikolay Bogdanov was born to a poor woman, out of wedlock. Rachinsky took the boy to his house and later helped him to enter Art Academy in Moscow.
This picture, which hangs today in the Tretyakov Gallery, was painted by this very boy.