Ilya Repin Russia
8-5-1844 Chuguyev, UKR - 9-29-1930 Kuokkala, FINBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Few Russian artists gain as much fame and recognition as Ilya Repin did before they die. He was incredibly hard-working, and left a large and diverse artistic legacy. Repin had no one favorite theme, and in his paintings one can see bargemen, high officials, Biblical characters, and tsars.
Ilya Repin was born in the Ukrainian town of Chuguevo and as a child appeared to have a gift for painting. Local icon painters gave him some art lessons. Helping his teachers, Repin earned enough money to go to St. Petersburg to enter a painting school there, and then eventually the Academy of Fine Arts. To make a living while studying, the young artist had to work as a house-painter.
In 1870, Ilya Repin went to the Volga River, and there he made the sketches for his future masterpiece “Barge Haulers on the Volga”. Locals willingly posed for him. Right after his return to St. Petersburg, he began to work on the picture that would take him three years to finish.
Ilya Repin visited Paris and was disappointed by the works of French impressionists. While abroad, Repin painted “Sadko” and became an academician of the Academy of Fine Arts for his work on this picture. In 1882, the Repins moved to St. Petersburg. Here Repin participated in “The Itinerants” exhibitions with his historical pictures. The most famous of them is “Ivan the Terrible Killing His Son”, painted in 1885.
Ilya Repin often visited the Moscow suburb of Abramtsevo, where well-known art patron Savva Mamontov had organized an art club. There he heard a story about the Cossacks and the Turkish sultan. According to the story, in the 17th century the sultan sent a letter to the Cossacks, demanding their obedience and their lands. The Cossacks wrote a rude and derisive, but witty answer. Repin was inspired by this story, and decided to tell it on canvas.
Thirteen years passed between the decision and its implementation. The painting was finished in 1891. A picturesque group of Cossacks gathered around the clerk, laughing and proposing lines to add to the letter.
His method was the reverse of impressionism. He produced works slowly and carefully. They were the result of close and detailed study. With some of his paintings, he made one hundred or more preliminary sketches. He was never satisfied with his works, and often painted multiple versions, years apart. Ilya Repin was the first Russian artist to achieve European fame using specifically Russian themes.
Art Movement: Realism
Influences: Eduard Manet, Diego Velázquez
Traveled: France, Finland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland