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Ilia Yefimovich Repin ( 1844 - 1930 )  Category ( Artists ) [suggest a correction]

Ilya Yefimovich RepinIlya Yefimovich Repin was a leading Russian painter and sculptor during the nineteenth century. His realistic works often expressed great psychological depth and exposed the tensions within the existing social order. He was so beloved by the Russian population that by the early 1930s that a Repin cult developed, whereby he was held up as a model of progressiveness worthy of imitation by Socialist Realist artists in the Soviet Union.

Repin was born in Ukraine to Russian settlers. He apprenticed with a local icon painter, where he also learned he basics of portrait painting. In 1866 he went to St. Petersburg and was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts as a student. From 1873-76 he was granted a stipend by the Academy to live and study in Italy and Paris. This is where he was exposed to French Impressionist painting, which had a lasting effect on his use of light and color. However, Repin also belongs in the more traditional school of academic European art, particularly the era of Rembrandt. Repin inspired Russian painters to turn to Impressionism, but he was never a practitioner himself. Repin’s subject matter was frequently the common people, from whom he himself traced his origins. Later in his career he also painted members of the Imperial Russian elite, the intelligentsia, and the aristocracy, including Tsar Nicholas II.

In 1878, Repin joined the free-thinking "Association of Peredvizhniki Artists," or "the Wanderers," or "The Itinerants" in English. The group rebelled against academic formalism. Repins fame was achieved with the completion of his painting "Volga Barge Haulers," a work that revealed the hard life of the Russian poor while still retaining hope for the nation’s youth. In 1885, Repin completed one of his most psychologically intense paintings, "Ivan the Terrible and his Son." The work vividly demonstrated a horrified and frightened Ivan embracing his dying son, whom he had just struck and mortally wounded in a fit or rage. One of Repin's most complex paintings, "Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire," occupied many years of his life. His initial intention of the painting was a study in laughter, but he also acknowledged that it involved the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity – in other words, republicanism.

During his later years, Repin painted a number of his more famous friends and colleagues, including novelist Leo Tolstoy, scientist Dmitri Mendeleev, the composer Mussorgsky, philanthropist Pavel Tretyakov, and others. Repin died in Finland in 1930.

Image: Self-portrait, 1878.

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