"Stoker" Yaroshenko became one of the first paintings that tell about the difficult fate of the Russian people. She, along with others devoted to the same topic, created the image of the proletariat, a worker who does not enjoy work, who works like cattle in bestial conditions, and whom no one ever recalls when he thinks of a hot bath or that it’s time to bathe the baby.
The furnace is not visible in the picture, but its presence is felt very close. Scarlet reflections of flame play on the figure of a man, on an uneven brick wall, recalling the hellish torment and sinners who will be plunged into fiery hell. However, the stoker is not a sinner. To use this terminology, it’s more like a devil who runs the boiler room in the hellish heat. But this image is inaccurate - the devils should enjoy the work.
Something caused the stoker to break off. He stands, shifting the poker from his right hand to his left, in a relaxed pose, betraying severe fatigue and an attempt to at least take a break. He is wearing coarse clothes soiled with coal, his hands are intertwined with veins and are tuberous from burns. In the palm of his hand, the blackness seems to have eaten so much that it can no longer be washed. The stoker’s beard is combed, the face is also hilly, and scars are visible on it. He looks at the viewer not blamingly and without much interest, rather with bewilderment.
In some ways, this perplexity is akin to the confusion of a cow that leads to a butcher. But in his face there is not even a fleeting pleasure from a respite, only transcendent fatigue. One cannot be happy at such a job. When you plow like an ox, you cannot be happy. Behind the stoker is a family - it is not in the picture, it is guessed - and a difficult life, full of hard work.
One of the artists who saw this picture said very accurately: “I have not known all my life that I owe someone. But it turns out even how, and worse, I will never have to pay off this debt. ”