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 Ilya Efimovich Repin  (1844 - 1930)

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Lived/Active: Russian Federation/Finland      Known for: portrait, figure, landscape and historical subject painting

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Ad Code: 1
Ilya Repin
from Auction House Records.
A Parisian Café
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Ilya Efimovich Repin (1844-1930)

A realist painter, he was born in Chuguev, in the Ukraine and received his first lessons in art in 1858, when he started working for I. M. Bunakov, an icon painter from Chuguev.  Fulfilling commissions for portraits and religious paintings, Repin saved enough money to go to St. Petersburg in 1863 where he enrolled in the School of Drawing attached to the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts.  He worked under Kramskoi and was accepted in the Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1864.  In May 1870 Repin went on a boat trip down the Volga during which he made sketches for his Barge-haulers on the Volga (The Volga Boatmen), a painting he finished in 1872, and which was immediately well received.  He graduated from the Academy in 1871 and his graduation work, The Resurrection of Jairus' Daughter, won the Gold Medal and a six-year scholarship (including three years of travel abroad).  He traveled in Europe for several months and then settled in Paris, where he lived from 1872 to 1876.  

After returning to Russia, Repin settled in Moscow and entered his most productive period for the next 10 to 12 years.  In 1877, he started painting a religious procession (Krestniy Khod), Krestniy Khod in Kursk Gubernia (1880-1883).  There were two different versions of the picture and the second one, completed in 1883, became the most popular, fascinating the viewer through the depiction of social types and human characters in the crowd.  Unexpected Return (1884) and Refusal from the Confession (1879-1885) are works dealing with the theme of  revolution.  He was a prolific portrait painter, creating among others, Portrait of the Composer Modest Musorgsky (1881), Portrait of the Surgeon Nikolay Pirogov (1881), Portrait of Author Alexey Pisemsky (1880), Portrait of Poet Afanasy Fet (1882), Portrait of the Art Critic Vladimir Stasov (1883), and Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887).

Repin lived in Moscow (1876-1882) and then moved to St. Petersburg.  He also made several trips to Europe - in 1883, 1889, 1894, and 1900.  He taught at St. Petersburg's Academy (1894-1907) and was an influential member of the Wanderers.  In 1900, during his trip to Paris, Repin met Natalia Nordman,  and moved to her home Penaty (Penates), in Kuokkala (Finland), located about an hour train ride from St. Petersburg.  Together they organized the famous Wednesdays at the Penaty which attracted the creative elite of Russia.  When Nordman died in 1914, she left the estate to the Academy, but Repin occupied it until his death in 1930.  ( At the beginning of the 20th century, Kuokkala was located in the Grand Duchy of Finland, a part of the Russian Empire.  Shortly after the October Revolution in 1917, Finland declared its independence from the Soviet Union. When the Karelian Isthmus was ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union after the Winter War and the Continuation War (1939–1944), Kuokkala became Russian.  In 1948, it was renamed Repino in honor of Ilya Repin).

Suffering from atrophy in his right hand, Repin trained himself to paint with his left hand, but was unable to produce the same quality of painting as before.  Repin did not accept the Revolution of 1917 and did not want to go back to Russia, even though in 1926 a delegation sent by the Ministry of Education of the Soviet Union helped him financially and tried to convince him to return.

Ilya Repin died in Kuokkala on September 29, 1930.

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