Ilya Repin: Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom (1876). State Russian Museum. © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Repin’s famous masterpieces and portraits to feature at the Ateneum

An exhibition featuring work by the international master painter Ilya Repin (1844–1930) will be on display on the third floor of the Ateneum Art Museum until 29 August 2021. Born in the territory of present-day Ukraine, Repin is Russia’s most famous painter, and he is also loved by the Finns: his studio home was located on Finnish territory, in Kuokkala in Terijoki, between 1903 and 1930. The exhibition by Repin will feature some of his most famous historical paintings and portraits of major cultural figures of his time, as well as his works from the Ateneum collection.

Repin is a skilled portrayer of the Russian people

Ilya Repin is above all known as a master of psychological portrayals of people and depictions of Russian folklife. The art education of the time emphasised the portrayal of human bodies and mythical subjects, but Repin and other realists were the first to highlight the depiction of ordinary Russian people as the most important task of art. Repin was endlessly interested in everything around him, which made him an incomparable portrayer of his time.

The Ateneum will be able to display Repin’s best-known paintings with masterful details, including Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870–1873) and Zaporozhian Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan (1880–1891), both from the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. There are psychologically accurate tensions in the mass scenes of Repin’s major works: each of the individual figures in the paintings seems to be living their own story in the midst of historical currents.

“Questions about human rights and the relationship between the people and their rulers and the ruling elite are still relevant today, but they also generated heated interest in the late 19th century. Art enables us to engage in discussion about socially important and topical issues”, says Marja Sakari, the director of the Ateneum Art Museum.

Repin, the most significant Russian artist of his time, depicted the Russian people, who had been freed from serfdom in the 1860s, as well as the intelligentsia of the era, and the relationship between the people and their rulers. His work has also strongly influenced the Finnish people’s current perception of the essence of Russianness.

Repin’s portraits display exceptional psychological depth

The exhibition’s many portraits feature members of the artist’s family, as well as cultural influencers of the time, such as the composer Modest Mussorgsky and the author Leo Tolstoy. In all, Repin painted more than 300 portraits, including portrayals of many influential women in culture. As one of the best portrait painters of his time, Repin captured exceptional psychological depth in his portraits.

During his career, Repin spent long periods in Paris, as well as in St. Petersburg and Moscow, together with his wife Vera Shevtsova and their four children. After the marriage ended in divorce, Repin started a relationship with Natalia Nordmann and built a studio home in Kuokkala (now Repino) in Terijoki, on the territory of the then Grand Duchy of Finland. The couple settled there permanently in 1903.

The Bolshevik Revolution closed the Finnish-Russian border in April 1918, and Repin remained an emigrant on Finnish soil. Repin had previously established warm relations with Finns such as Eino Leino and Albert Edelfelt, and had immortalised, among others, Akseli Gallen-Kallela in his paintings. He donated works of art to the Ateneum, and in honour of this, a large celebration was held for Repin at Helsingin Seurahuone.

An exhibition sought by the Ateneum for 25 years

The exhibition is the first review of Repin’s entire career in Finland in the 21st century, and the Ateneum has sought to stage it for 25 years. The exhibition will feature more than 130 paintings and paper-based works spanning a period of more than sixty years. Many of the works will be shown in Helsinki for the first time. The Ateneum collection also includes a great number of Repin’s works.

The exhibition will be realised by the Ateneum Art Museum and the Petit Palais (Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris/Paris Musées), in collaboration with the State Tretyakov Gallery and the State Russian Museum. The curator of the exhibition at the Ateneum is the chief curator Timo Huusko. After its time at the Ateneum, the exhibition will be on display at the Petit Palais in Paris.

The exhibition will be complemented by the publication of a richly illustrated exhibition catalogue with articles by experts, to be made available in Finnish, Swedish and English. The publication is edited by the curator Anne-Maria Pennonen.

Visit the page of the exhibition

Exhibition intros and guided tours for groups available for booking

You can get more out of your visit to the exhibition by booking a place at an exhibition intro, to be held in the Ateneum Hall. Guided tours in the exhibition galleries are only held outside normal opening hours on separate request. Virtual guided tours are also available.

Exhibition intro: Repin

Exhibition intro is held in the Ateneum Hall, where you can sit comfortably while listening to an expert present the content and background of the exhibition. Images of the art are displayed at the same time. Following the intro you can enjoy the exhibition at your own pace.

Groups will be welcome to visit the Ateneum once the strictest coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. Restrictions may have an effect on the group size.

Languages: Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian
Price: €5/person + tickets
Group size: Max. 20 persons
Length: 30 min

Guided tour: Repin and the silent galleries

Would you like to enjoy art peacefully? We organize special guided tours of the Ilya Repin exhibition only outside the normal opening hours of the museum, with only three groups in the exhibition galleries at a time.

Ilya Repin, the most significant Russian artist of his time, depicted the Russian people, who had been freed from serfdom in the 1860s, as well as the intelligentsia of the era, and the relationship between the people and their rulers.

Groups will be welcome to visit the Ateneum once the strictest coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. Restrictions may have an effect on the group size.

Languages: Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian
Price: €580
Group size: Max. 20 persons
Length: 1 h

Virtual guided tour: Repin

Ilya Repin is the most significant Russian artist of his time, and he is also loved by the Finns. Repin is, above all, known as a master of psychological portrayals of people, and depictions of Russian folklife. The virtual guided tour offers treats from Repin’s world of art: during the tour, we explore the artist’s most important works and life stages, and reflect on exhibition themes.

The tour does not take place in the exhibition galleries, but the guide presents the themes and works using a visual presentation. There is an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the tour.

The tour is provided to participants as a guide-led session on Microsoft Teams. There is no need to download the Teams application: you can join the tour using a browser. You can participate in the tour as a group or individually from your own workstation, following the link we provide.

To participate in a virtual guided tour, you need a network connection with a minimum speed of 10 Mbit/s, or a 4G connection. Recording the virtual guided tour is prohibited.

Tour languages: Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian
Price: €95, for schools €70
Group size: max. 20 people
Duration: 45 min