Among all the stories written by Gogol Portrait is particularly of interest. He worked hard on it and rewrote it many times. Portrait develops two topics: of the death of the artist Chertkov and of the terrible moneylenders. The first one develops the idea that you cannot serve both self-interest and pure art, practical benefits and ideal. Evil genius persuaded a talented artist, that everything is done in the world for one’s benefit that it’s stupid to fast, and be far away from the people in the world of pure dreams. And the hero of Portrait, the artist Chertkov, listened to that voice, enticed the benefits of the world, began to look at art as a means of profit, and became a craftsman, but he became rich, because learned how to make up for the tastes of the mob. When he once had seen a work written by an artist idealist, he realized what a great deity he betrayed, but he could not come back to it.
In addition, in Portrait Gogol expressed an elevated view on Art, which has to be pure and holy. This view has an interesting idea that realism as an artistic device must know the limits, that not everything in the reality around us can be the subject of art image. An ugly moneylender’s face, especially his terrible eyes, were so artistically painted in the portrait that horror mastered everybody who just had looked at it. Gogol asks, does a person have such a feature, which brings him to the higher knowledge of art, and when he steps through it, he snatches not something produced by human labor, he pulls out something alive from Life, animates the original. Why is this change of line, position of the boundaries to the imagination, so terrible? Or, beyond imagination, beyond impulse, finally, reality, that terrible reality, which comes off the imagination with its some extraneous impulse, that terrible reality that appears to people being thirsty of it, when they desire to comprehend a beautiful man, arm with the anatomical knife, reveal his inside and see a disgusting person?
These artist Chertkov’s thoughts were, in fact, Gogol’s thoughts during the writing of Portrait - the period of his work, when he passed from romanticism to realism in trying to determine for himself the essence of this art movement.
Finally, we find in Portrait the idea of the religious significance of art. The artist who had depicted the usurer had unknowingly painted the devil. When he had found out this fact, he went to the monastery and with fasting and praying was expiating his sin, the sin of the artist, who depicted the incarnation of evil and the sin – Satan. Since then, he devoted his art to icon-painting, but for a long time he could not get rid of Satan's influence. Finally, he was forgiven.