Ilja Repin: Natalia Nordmannin ja Ilja Repinin kaksoismuotokuva, 1903. Kansallisgalleria / Ateneumin taidemuseo. Kuva: Kansallisgalleria
Ilja Repin: Natalia Nordmannin ja Ilja Repinin kaksoismuotokuva, 1903. Kansallisgalleria / Ateneumin taidemuseo. Kuva: Kansallisgalleria

Guide to the Repin Exhibition

Repin

Ateneum Art Museum 19.3.–29.8.2021 

From the curator

Ilya Repin (1844–1930) is one of the most famous Russian artists in Finland. He spent the last years of his life at Kuokkala in Terijoki, Finland, and many of his masterpieces, including the Barge Haulers on the Volga, are familiar to Finns from reproductions and stories. Yet no exhibition covering Repin’s entire career has been held in Finland in this millennium. That need has now been met by this show in the Ateneum Art Museum, which loosely follows the events of Repin’s career.

Repin lived in a time of great change in the history of Russia, including the liberation of serfs in 1861, the emergence of Russian intelligentsia, the rise and fall of the emperor’s absolute power and the transition to Soviet Communism in 1918. These changes played a major role in Repin’s realist work, the main concern of which was the depiction of the intrinsic characteristics of individuals and the nation. He became a brilliant portraitist and superb painter of the Russian soul. The exhibition features more than 130 works spanning a period of over sixty years, most of them now on show for the first time in Helsinki. The exhibition is organised by the Ateneum Art Museum and Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris/Paris Musées in collaboration with State Tretyakov Gallery and State Russian Museum

Timo Huusko 
Chief Curator
Ateneum Art Museum

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

Studies and Paris 

Gallery 3.1
Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation 

Repin was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in 1864. At that time, the Russian art world was torn by a dispute between academic classicism and realism. Repin was an advocate of the latter. He held that the fundamental subject of art was Russian life and the Russian people. A case in point was Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870–73), a work that earned the admiration of distinguished critic Vladimir Stasov.

Repin received a grant to study abroad and spent three years in France, studying Édouard Manet’s style of painting, among others. It was in Paris that he completed the canvas Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom (1876), which earned him the title of academician.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.1

Self-Portrait, 1887  

In this picture, Ilya Repin is aged 43 and has become an internationally successful artist. During his long career, Repin painted a number of self-portraits, which demonstrate his typical psychological acuity. 

Preparing for an Exam, 1864  

When he was just 20 years old, Ilya Repin painted two brothers who were around the same age as himself, Aleksandr and Aleksey Shevtsov – neither of whom appeared to be interested in studying at the time they were depicted. They were brothers of Repin’s future wife, Vera Shevtsova. Aleksandr was a candidate to become an architecture instructor at the Academy of Arts, while Aleksey was a high-school student who later pursued a military career. 

Portrait of the Artist’s Brother, Vasily Repin, 1867     

Repin’s brother, Vasily Repin (1853–1918), was a musician who graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he studied under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Vasily played in the orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre and composed music. This portrait was painted in summer 1867 in Chuguev. 

Portrait of Vera Shevtsova, 1869  

Vera Shevtsova (1854–1918), the daughter of the architect academician Aleksey Shevtsov, was Repin’s wife from 1872 to 1884. Vera and Ilya had four children: Vera Ilyinichna Repina (1872–1948), Nadezhda Ilyinichna Repina (1874–1931), Yury Ilyich Repin (1877–1954) and Tatyana Repina (1880–1957).  

Barge Haulers on the Volga, 1870–1873  

Eleven burlaks, or landless labourers, pull a ship upstream on the Volga in hot weather. They represent the ethnic diversity of the Russian people. In reality, there would have been many more of these men pulling such a ship, but in this work Repin focuses on portraying each labourer as an individual, and all of them are under strain from all the hard work. Repin watched the barge haulers at work during his travels and made many sketches. When Grand Duke Vladimir Aleksandrovich Romanov saw these sketches he commissioned Repin to create a large painting on the theme. On completion, it was shown abroad as an example of Russian realism and representative of the work of the Peredvizhniki (‘the Wanderers’) artists’ cooperative. This work became Repin’s breakthrough piece, earning many awards. Important cultural influencers of the day, such as the respected art critic Vladimir Stasov, focused more attention on the work’s socially analytical content than its artistic qualities. 

Portrait of Vladimir Stasov, 1873  

Repin met Vladimir Stasov in 1869. Stasov (1824– 1906) was a highly influential music and art critic, who encouraged artists to portray Russian themes. In his view, only the depiction of everyday urban and rural life – the distinctive Russian landscape as well as peasants and merchants – were worthy subjects that would advance Russian art. Stasov found the talent he sought in the work of Repin, as confirmed by the completion of Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870–73). From then on, Stasov championed the artist and was eager to promote him as a portrayer of Russia’s important social and moral values. In 1883 Repin and Stasov travelled to central and western Europe, where they visited various museums. In 1893, artistic differences of opinion emerged however, due to Repin’s respect for the right of art to transcend everyday reality and to express aesthetic ideals. However, the pair rekindled their friendship in 1900, and Stasov visited Repin at his studio house in 1904. 

Portrait of the Writer Ivan Turgenev, 1874  

In 1873, Repin travelled to Paris on a stipend from the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. He studied there for three years. One of the Russian cultural figures who had settled in Paris was the author Ivan Turgenev (1818–83). Through Turgenev, Repin met the French writer Émile Zola, among others. Pavel Tretyakov, a patron of the arts from Moscow who took an early interest in Repin’s art, commissioned him to paint Turgenev’s portrait. It was intended to be shown in his gallery as part of a series of portraits of famous Russians. Turgenev, who had western-leaning views, felt that Russian art could only succeed by adopting French ideals. Specifically, this meant that technical skills were seen as more important than the choice of profound subject matter. On completion, Repin’s portrait satisfied neither painter nor model. Repin had preferred his first version, which he had had to abandon.  

A Fisher Girl, Veules, 1874  

In the summer of 1874, Repin stayed in the village of Veules, in Normandy. There he painted outdoors, portraying everyday themes with his characteristic realism. Repin considered this period to be the third crucial step in his development as an artist. The first had been working as an religious painter in his hometown of Chuguyev, and the second was his painting trips to the Volga in the summers of 1870 and 1872. In Veules, he decided that art did not always need to be couched within ideological goals. A Fisher Girl, Veules is one of the more successful results of his work from that summer.

A Black Woman, 1876   

Repin painted this picture in Paris. It was reportedly inspired by Mariano Fortuny (1838–1874), a Spanish painter in the academic salon tradition whom Repin admired. It remains for the viewer to decide whether this highly detailed picture of an anonymous woman is a work of exoticizing orientalism or a dignified portrait of an individual. Repin presented the painting at the 1876 Paris Salon. It was unknown in Russia until 1939, when it was delivered to the State Russian Museum.

Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, 1876  

Sadko is the hero in an old Russian epic poem, a merchant and musician from Novgorod who played the gusli (zither). The story has inspired many artists. Repin’s painting is close in spirit to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, Sadko, which premiered in Moscow in 1898 with a libretto co-written by the composer. In the story, Sadko leaves his wife at home to go on a journey, eventually returning as a rich man. Along the way, he is imprisoned by the king of an underwater realm. He must choose a wife from a series of maidens of different nationalities, each more beautiful than the last. In the painting, Sadko chooses Chernava, a modest Russian woman, who is seen in the upper background. This decision brings him his freedom. At the end of the tale, Sadko awakens at home beside his wife.

Repin painted the work in Paris, where he had become acquainted with the freer expression of the Impressionists and others. He studied depictions of the underwater world at the Maritime Museum. Repin is said to have been disappointed with the finished work, however. Stylistically Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom represents the salon art of the period, which was only an intermediary phase in Repin’s artistic development. The work was commissioned by Crown Prince Aleksandr Aleksandrovich (later Alexander III), and led to Repin being awarded the Russian title of academician in 1876.

Ilya Repin: Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870–1873). State Russian Museum. © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Repin the Draughtsman  

Gallery 3.2 

Repin was a prolific draughtsman, who at times even saw it as his duty to document the things he witnessed. Drawing was not an independent medium at the start of Repin’s career, and often the focus in his works is on the vivid portrayal of a person’s head rather than overall figure.

From the 1870s onward, Repin began to employ a drawing technique of uniform lines that blended the figures into their surroundings in the picture. In some cases, such as drawings of scenes from the life of Christ, a broken line brought a sense of vividness to the subject’s portrayal.

Early Folk Scenes 

Gallery 3.3 

Artists aiming for a realistic portrayal of the people founded a group called Peredvizhniki, The Wanderers. Starting in 1871, they arranged exhibitions independent of the arts academy. One of the group’s goals was to call attention to injustices and promote social and political reform.

Repin did not join the group until 1878; he wanted to acquire official and thorough artistic education first. The title of academician afforded him access to the upper classes and also greater privileges. Now Repin began to explore the superstitions and summary treatment of peasants, the degeneracy of the church and the servility of the poor.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.3

Portrait of Savva Mamontov, 1880  

In Paris in 1873, Repin became acquainted with Savva Mamontov (1841–1918), a Muscovite industrialist and a significant patron of the arts. Mamontov had a country manor and estate in Abramtsevo, near Moscow. There, in the words of Mamontov “among the original, unspoilt material”, many artists and intellectuals gathered, who were united by notions of awakening the Russian people. Repin spent his summers there in 1878–79 and again in 1881–82. Thanks to Mamontov’s interest in Russian history, it was there at Abramtsevo that Repin first heard, for instance, the story of the Zaporozhian Cossacks writing a mocking letter to the Turkish Sultan in the 1600s. There too he made the first sketch for the painting of the event that was later to become famous. 

The Man with the Evil Eye, 1877  

This painting is one of the early works in which Repin sought to distinctively portray the essence of the Russian people. He painted it in his home town of Chuguyev, a place where “…the great majority of the forgotten people live much more sincerely than we do…”, as Repin wrote in a letter to Vladimir Stasov. The painting’s title refers to the subject’s world view, a mix of folk beliefs and Orthodoxy, and the surrounding community’s beliefs. 

An Archdeacon, 1877  

An Archdeacon was painted in Repin’s birthplace, Chuguyev. It portrays a local archdeacon, Ivan Ulanov, who was known for his exuberant attitude towards life. The Moscow collector Pavel Tretyakov was interested in buying the work. In discussing the painting with Tretyakov, Repin said that it did not actually depict an individual, but was rather a kind of distillation of leaders of Slavic religious communities, who are not spiritual at all, but rather completely flesh and blood, and represent the last echoes of pagan-era religious practices.

Pilgrims, a study for the work “Religious Procession in the Kursk Governorate“, 1878 

Pilgrims is an early study for the work Religious Procession in the Kursk Governorate (1881–83). Thefigures can be seen on the lower left-hand side of thefinished painting. In this study, Repin sympatheticallyportrayed two poor pilgrims as humble of faith butperhaps also sorrowful about their backward statusand limited knowledge. In the year he made this study,Repin was accepted as a member of the Peredvizhnikiitinerant artists’ cooperative. The group’s aim wasto raise awareness about the inherent nature of theRussian people, their poverty but also the distinctivebeauty of their way of life, and thereby to foster asense of social and moral responsibility towards them. 

Ilya Repin: Portrait of Artist Nikolay (Mykola) Murashko (1882). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen.

Artist Portraits 

Gallery 3.4  

The success of the Peredvizhniki group led to a renewal of portrait painting in Russia. Artists were now expected to portray not only the common people but also distinctive individuals and pioneers, i.e., the moral, artistic and intellectual beacons of Russian culture.

Repin painted artist portraits in his time. The subject was close to his heart, as he himself had gained entry to the intelligentsia precisely because of his artistic skill and friendships forged during his days in the arts academy. Repin was a master of capturing the likeness of his sitters, but he also conveyed a believable and intimate sense of who they were inside.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.4

Portrait of the Artist Nikolay (Mykola) Murashko, 1882

Nikolay (Mykola) Murashko (1844–1909) was a Ukrainian artist and one of Repin’s closest artist friends from his student years. Murashko is said to have been politically more progressive than Repin. For example, it was he who in 1866 took Repin to witness the hanging of Dmitry Karakozov, the man who had attempted to assassinate the Emperor Alexander II. Alongside his career as painter, Murashko was above all an art teacher; he founded the first art school in Kyiv in 1875. Repin visited the school and donated a few artworks to it.

Portrait of the Pianist Anton Rubinstein, 1881 

Anton Rubinstein (1829–94) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who sat for three portraits by Repin. As a composer, he is seen as representing a branch of Russian music that has a European spirit. Rubinstein performed to great acclaim internationally and established the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

Portrait of the Writer Aleksey Pisemsky, 1880 

Aleksey Feofilaktovich Pisemsky (1821–81) was a novelist and dramatist and a major figure in Russian realism. In the late 1850s, his talent was still considered equal to that of Turgenev and Dostoevsky. Pisemsky was among the first to introduce ordinary people on Russian stage and in literature. His career faded towards the end, and he died the year following the completion of this portrait.  

Portrait of the Artist Pavel Chistyakov, 1878  

Pavel Chistyakov (1832–1919) was a painter who lived for many years in Italy, before becoming a teacher at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1872. He was considered one of the school’s foremost instructors. Repin studied briefly under him, as did the Finnish painter Eero Järnefelt. 

Portrait of the Composer Modest Mussorgsky, 1881  

The Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839–81) and Repin were good friends. The artist created a skilful, honest portrait of him wearing a bathrobe. He painted it in March 1881 at the Imperial Military Hospital in St. Petersburg, completing it in four sessions just a few days before the master composer’s death. Although Mussorgsky was exhausted and also an alcoholic, there is still strength in his gaze. Repin used the money earned from the portrait to commission a monument to the composer.

Actress Polina Strepetova as Lizaveta, 1881  

The Russian actress Polina Strepetova (1850–1903) was known for playing tragic, emotive roles. She first performed in regional theatres, before moving on to St. Petersburg’s Alexandrinsky Theatre in 1881. She is known for her bravura role as Lizaveta in Aleksey Pisemsky’s play, A Bitter Fate, a role which she performed over three decades. 

Portrait of the Composer Aleksandr Glazunov, 1887   

Composer and conductor Aleksandr Glazunov (1865–1936) was born in St. Petersburg, where he worked first as professor and later as rector of the conservatory. He emigrated in 1928 and died in Paris in 1936.  

Portrait of the Pianist Sophie Menter, 1887  

The German pianist and composer Sophie Menter (1846–1918) was one of Franz Liszt’s favourite students, and was known for her energetic, expressive manner of playing. In 1883 she became a professor of piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, but left the post in 1886 to resume her concert career.  

Ilya Repin: Portrait and Hand Study (undated). Finnish Nationa Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen.

Later Drawings 

Gallery 3.5 

Repin typically drew sketches and studies for his paintings, but many of them are also artworks in their own right. He also began to combine different media, adding black and red chalk, sepia and ink to watercolours. The background was an important element in conveying the mood of the picture. Starting in the 1890s, drawing developed into a distinct medium of art in Russia.

Ateneum Art Museum has a significant collection of Repin’s drawings. Most of them were received in 1930, when the then-director of the Ateneum, Torsten Stjernschantz, visited Repin and purchased 72 works from him.

teoskuva: Ilja Repin Pyryharakka (Taiteilijan tyttären Vera Repinan muotokuva) (1884)
Ilya Repin: Dragonfly (Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter Vera Repina) (1884). The State Tretyakov Gallery. © The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Family 

Gallery 3.6

Repin married Vera Shevtsova (1855–1918) in 1872. They had four children, Vera (1872–1948), Nadezhda (“Nadya”, 1874–1931), Yury (1877–1954) and Tatyana (1880–1957). When Tatyana was born, their mother was 25.

The family moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1882, when Repin was already a successful artist. The marriage began to falter, however, not least because of Repin’s continuous infatuations, and the couple separated in 1884. Repin bought his wife Vera a flat where she moved with Yury and Tatyana; Vera and Nadya stayed with Repin. The couple spent a few more summers together at Zdravnevo, where Repin bought a farm in 1892.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.6

Summer Landscape (The Artist’s Wife, Vera Repina, on the Bridge in Abramtsevo), 1879  

This painting shows Repin’s wife Vera in in a park at Abramtsevo, not far from Moscow, the rural home of the arts patron Savva Mamontov. Repin spent several summers there, enjoying its pleasant natural surroundings and cultural atmosphere, as well as the nearby village, whose residents “from children to old men and ladies” were eager to pose for him. Repin’s wife Vera is said to have enjoyed the life of high society and spending time at Abramtsevo. However, she did not apparently share her husband’s endless fascination with the various dimensions of human culture – nor was she enamoured of his frequent infidelity.

Self-Portrait, 1894

Repin is about 50 in this picture. He painted it in Naples, which was one of the stopping points on his European tour that began in autumn 1893. He was travelling with his son Yury, who otherwise had lived with his mother. Repin was at the height of his fame at this time. The large one-man shows in St Petersburg and Moscow had made him a celebrated figure, and he had been granted the title of full member of the Imperial Academy of Arts. After the trip, Repin took up a position running the painting studio at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg. His relationship with his wife, Vera, improved temporarily.

Resting (Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, Vera Repina), 1882

Repin met his future wife, Vera Shevtsova, when he was an art student. Vera’s father was his landlord. She was 17 when they were married. Vera had a good basic education, possibly better than Repin’s, and she was popular among his colleagues and supporters. The marriage nevertheless gradually turned sour. When they lived in Moscow from 1877–1882, Repin conceived three children with servants of the family. After moving to St Petersburg in 1882, the couple separated in 1884. They divorced in 1887.

Ilya Repin: Tsarevna Sophia Alekseyevna a Year After Her Imprisonment in the Novodevichy Convent, During the Executions of the Streltsy and the Torture of All Her Servants in 1698 (1879). State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photo © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Social Criticism

Gallery 3.8 

Repin followed keenly the social movements of his day that sought to increase civil rights and curtail the power of the emperor. Although Repin did paint a few subjects from Russian history, most of his works depict contemporary events. He supported liberal reforms, but the assassination of Alexander II turned him away from radicalism.

The emotional tension between revolutionaries and the complacent populace is palpable in Repin’s pictures. The paintings are also ambiguous in that it is often difficult to say with whom the artist himself sides.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.8

Annual Memorial Meeting Near the Wall of the Communards in the Cemetery of Père Lachaise in Paris, 1883  

In 1883, Repin travelled in western Europe with Vladimir Stasov. At Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, they witnessed the annual demonstration commemorating the Paris Commune. After the fall of the Commune in 1871, 147 rebel leaders were executed against the wall shown in the painting. During the memorial procession, participants laid wreaths at the wall before a crowd of thousands. Speakers heightened the mood with stirring speeches. “…the air was filled with shouts of Vive la Revolutio[n] sociale!! Vive la Kommune [sic] and the crowd was passionately swept along”, Repin recalled. The scene deeply moved him and he drew it in his sketchbook. Over the next three days, he painted this version in oil.

Arrest of a Propagandist, 1880–1889, 1892  

Repin came up with the idea for this painting in 1878. It was apparently inspired by a major trial of 193 revolutionary Narodniks in St. Petersburg in 1877–78. Repin portrays his hero, who has been distributing propaganda sheets, as strong and defiant. Placing him in the centre of the work in a bright red shirt, Repin imbued the work with revolutionary colours. The indifference of those witnessing the arrest is most likely an allusion to the fact that the peasant folk, whose status these student idealists of bourgeois background sought to improve, did not always want to be enlightened, preferring instead to report the Narodniks to the police.

Before the Confession, 1879–1885  

Repin began to paint this work after reading the poem ‘The Last Confession’, by Nikolay Minsky (the pen name of Nikolay Vilenkin). Vladimir Stasov showed Repin the poem, which was published in 1879 in the banned revolutionary newspaper Narodnaja volja (People’s Will). A Polish member of the same revolutionary organisation assassinated Tsar Alexander II in an 1884 bombing. While the painting has long been known as Before the Confession, since 1936 it has been said to show the refusal of a confession, and is also known by the name Refusal of Confession. It is not possible to tell from the expression or demeanour of the prisoner, who has been sentenced to death, whether he intends to refuse the confession or to begin a discussion with the priest.

Tsarevna Sophia Alekseyevna a Year After Her Imprisonment in the Novodevichy Convent, During the Executions of the Streltsy and the Torture of All Her Servants in 1698, 1879  

Sophia Alekseyevna Romanova (1657–1704) was the daughter of Russian Tsar Alexis. She was unusually interested in politics for a woman of her time, and seized power over and above her brother and half-brother, arguing that they were too young to rule, and instead ruled herself with a firm grip from 1682 to 1689. At that point, her half-brother, Peter the Great, succeeded in deposing her and banished her to the Novodevichy Convent. When Peter left the country for nine years, Sophia plotted against him and tried to stage a rebellion with the backing of the Streltsy (Ivan the Terrible’s infantry unit). Hearing that the Streltsy had pledged allegiance to Sophia, Peter had nearly 200 of them beheaded and Sophia imprisoned in a cell in the convent.

In Repin’s work Sophia is depicted as highly defiant and unyielding. Hanging outside her window is the body of one of her supporters. Repin portrays Sophia on the threshold of a new life, forced into a convent, taking the veil and leading an even more isolated life and dying there many years later.

Ilya Repin: Zaporozhian Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan (1880–1891). State Russian Museum. © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

The Full Spectrum of Russian Culture 

Gallery 3.9 

Repin was endlessly fascinated by everything that surrounded him, which made him a peerless portrayer of his day. With friends, writer Leo Tolstoy among them, he discussed factors affecting the Russian psyche, such as relations between the church, the people and the rulers.

Among his most famous works, Zaporozhian Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan (1880–91), was received with unalloyed enthusiasm, whereas Religious Procession in the Kursk Governorate (1881–83) awakened resentment. According to art critic Vladimir Stasov, the painting presented viewers with “Russia in all her glory and everyday misery”.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.9

Zaporozhian Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan, 1880–1891  

The narrative in this painting is set in Russia in 1676. The Cossacks in this work, known as Zaporozhians, are writing a defiant response to a letter from the Turkish Sultan Mehmed IV, who had demanded that the Zaporozhians surrender to his rule. The Zaporozhians are full of themselves, but seem to have fraternal faith in each other and in their fate. This work is packed full of colourful personalities and variations of laughter, motion and energy.

The historical accuracy of the scene is uncertain, but Repin was confident in his own interpretation. He worked on the painting for a long time, returning to the subject again and again in many sketches and versions. This ethnographic-historical work with its patriotic subject and lack of political criticism, ensured it a rapturous reception in many quarters: both liberals and conservatives admired the work, its drama and lively style of painting. Tsar Alexander III paid 35,000 roubles for the work, at that point the highest sum ever paid in Russia for a contemporary work of art.

Religious Procession in the Kursk Governorate, 1881-1883

The subject of religious procession fascinated Repin for years. He began developing the work in 1877 in Chuguev, and his enthusiasm was bolstered by processions he witnessed in 1881 in and around Kursk. This painting was presented for the first time in the 11th exhibition of the Peredvizhniki in 1883.

The huge crowd depicted attending the procession is composed of a broad spectrum of social classes. The sun reflects off gilded objects, whether the icon case housing the Mother of God carried by peasants or the icon held by the aristocratic woman.

The picture is full of biting social criticism. The more affluent attendants tend to be depicted as caricatures, whereas poor people are presented with dignity. The class distinctions and roles are obvious: the priest in the centre represents the power of the church and the police state. The conservative press of the day felt threatened by the direct realism of the picture, with its expression of popular unrest, and condemned the work as a distorted image of life in Russia. Others, however, saw the painting as truthful, affirmative and bold.

Evening Gathering, 1881   

Repin began painting this work in 1877 in his native Chuguev, near Kharkiv in today’s Ukraine. The room is full of people, with youngsters dancing the hopak.  This is one of Repin’s exuberant genre pictures in which he strove for authenticity.

Unexpected Return, 1884–1888  

Unexpected Return (They Did Not Expect Him) is one of Repin’s best-known works. It shows the father of a family returning home after being imprisoned for his political beliefs. Judging from the expressions and gestures of the others, though, one can surmise that the reunion is not a joyful one. The only one who appears to be delighted is the boy seated on the right. In this work, Repin indicated a shift in his view of the politics of the Russian reformists known as the Narodniks. They had sought to improve conditions for the poor peasants, demanding more land for them. At first, Repin took a positive view of their efforts, but after terrorists who split off from the group assassinated Tsar Alexander II in 1881, he could no longer accept the more extremist forms of its views. The man in the picture represents these ideals, but his family and servants no longer seem to agree that all of their sacrifices were worthwhile. The tension between the various characters’ emotional states – which is typical of many of Repin’s works – can be felt especially strongly in this painting.

Unexpected Return, 1883–1898  

This is a study for a painting of the same name that was completed in 1884, in which the main figure is a man returning from prison. However, in this study Repin used a woman as his model, apparently portraying a politically active student who has been allowed to return home from prison. Repin was not the first Russian artist to depict a female activist, but most likely took the subject from the paintings of Nikolay Yaroshenko. Many of the students who were demanding the improvement of the peasants’ status were women. The Russian word for a female student, kursistka, took on a negative connotation, in some cases referring to activists, or even terrorists. 

Reception of Volost Elders by Emperor Alexander III in the Courtyard of the Petrovsky Palace in Moscow, 1886  

In the summer of 1884, the Ministry of the Imperial Court commissioned this painting, to be shown in the Grand Kremlin Palace. The chosen subject was an event arranged in the courtyard of Moscow’s Petrovsky Palace, in which Tsar Alexander III addressed a group of peasant village elders. The meeting between the Tsar and the representatives of the local autonomous regions was part of the coronation festivities in May 1883. The painting was intended to exemplify the ideas of multinationalism, cohesion of the people and the concern of a monarch who listened to his subjects. The painting’s frame had a particular significance, as it is decorated with emblems of the areas of the Russian Empire. The ornamentation includes, the coats of arms of 25 governorates and administrative districts, as well as elements based on archaeological monuments from various parts of the empire. Despite the specifically defined, binding subject matter of this commission, Repin created a multi-faceted study of the various emotional states aroused in the village elders by the presence of this charismatic Tsar.

Duel, 1897  

Repin learned about duels from the writer Aleksandr Zirkevich. His best-known painting of the subject is from 1899, which presents the duel between Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky in Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin. The duel was a popular theme in literature of the time, as it was a way to express powerful states of emotion, from pent-up tension to mental turmoil. At the same time, it was also an opportunity to point to the general futility of duels. In the painting, a doctor approaches a duellist who is dying and is still begging for forgiveness from his offended opponent. The victor, however, has already turned his back on the loser.

Portrait of the Writer Leo Tolstoy, 1887

Among Russian writers, Tolstoy was closest to Repin’s heart. They met for the first time in Moscow in 1880 and later at Tolstoy’s estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in 1887 and 1891. Repin had a high regard for Tolstoy’s rules for life, which emphasised love for one’s fellow human beings and which were to be inviolable by any norms of the church, authorities or society. Tolstoy’s ideas about art, however, were not agreeable to Repin. He felt that art should be more than a declamation of ideas: it also should express the balance of harmonic forms and hues in nature.

Ilya Repin: Surgeon J. W. Pavlov in the Operating Theatre (1888). State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photo © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Portraits of Intelligentsia and Aristocracy 

Gallery 3.10 

Repin painted well over 300 portraits during his career. In addition to artists, he also painted prominent figures of culture and society. He received commissions for portraits early on in his career. For instance, Pavel Tretyakov commissioned portraits for his gallery of great Russians. Repin was awarded membership to the Union of Russian Writers in 1888, and in 1891 he had an extensive one-man exhibition in St. Petersburg that propelled him to the pinnacle of his fame. Repin also painted many powerful women in cultural circles. One of them was Elizaveta Zvantseva, whose portrait Repin donated to the Ateneum Art Museum.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.10

Portrait of the Actress Eleonora Duse, 1891    

Italian Eleonora Duse (1858–1924) was a third-generation actress and a contemporary of Sarah Bernhardt, rivalling the latter in fame. She toured the world as a child, and she toured Russia in 1891 and 1908. This portrait was drawn during her visit to St. Petersburg in 1891.    

Portrait of Attorney Vladimir Gerhard, 1893 

Attorney Vladimir Gerhard apparently commissioned this portrait from Repin. The painting subsequently belonged to the St. Petersburg Bar Association. The picture shows Gerhard in an informal pose, leaning on a side table. The steady gaze and thrust of his body convey a sense of self-esteem. Repin employed a contrast of brick red and dark grey or almost black, a device he frequently used in his portraits, including Portrait of the Artist Elizaveta Zvantseva, which belongs to the Ateneum Art Museum  

Portrait of the Artist Elizaveta Zvantseva, 1889  

Elizaveta Zvantseva (1861–1921) was a Russian painter and one of Repin’s students. She established an art school, first in Moscow and then in St. Petersburg. This portrait was painted in the spring of 1889 in St. Petersburg. Repin is known to have long been enamoured of Zvantseva, who did not, however, fully reciprocate his feelings. The teaching methods at Zvantseva’s art school were very progressive. Its students included Valentin Serov, Léon Bakst, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and Marc Chagall.

Portrait of Countess Louise Mercy d´Argenteau, 1890 

Countess Louise Mercy d’Argenteau (1837–90) was a Belgian pianist who organised concerts by Russian musicians in Belgium. She was a close friend of César Cui and lived permanently in Russia the last years of her life. This portrait of the seriously ill countess was commissioned by César Cui shortly before she succumbed to cancer in St. Petersburg. The likeness and poignancy of the picture was praised by the press. 

Portrait of Tatyana Mamontova, 1882   

Tatyana Mamontova’s father was Savva Mamontov’s brother, Anatoly Mamontov, owner of a print shop and publishing house in Moscow. Tatyana married philologist G. A. Ratsinky in 1889. On the back of the painting, Repin inscribed a dedication: “To a selfless friend of artists…” Of his contemporaries, at least Viktor Vasnetsov also painted a portrait of Mamontova. 

Portrait of the Artist Aleksey Bogolyubov, 1882  

Aleksey Bogolyubov (1824–96) was one of the most significant Russian landscape painters of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Repin met him in Paris, where Bogolyubov served as a quasi cultural ambassador for Russia from 1873 onwards. He was tasked with reporting on the progress of Russian stipendiaries and helping to acquire works from the Paris Salon for the Tsar’s family and others. During his years in Paris, Repin attended an art salon that Bogolyubov hosted on Thursdays. 

Portrait of Baroness Varvara Uexküll von Gyldenbandt, 1889 

Baroness Varvara Uexküll von Gyldenbandt (1850–1928) made her debut in Paris in the 1880s by writing short stories, which she published in Russia under the pseudonym V. Rouslane. In the 1890s she hosted a famous literary and art salon in St. Petersburg that was also frequented by Repin. The liberal baroness raised money for victims of famine, succeeded in securing the release of writer Maxim Gorky from prison three times and was otherwise active in society. Repin described her as self-assured, fashionable and elegant. 

Portrait of Countess Natalia Golovina, 1896 

Natalia Golovina is depicted in profile, in the manner of a high society portrait. She was married to Count Nikolay Golovin. The painting emphasises the countess’s stately posture and refined features, along with the attire and jewellery that signified her status.

Portrait of the Military Engineer Andrey Delvig, 1882  

Baron Andrey Delvig (1813–87) was a military engineer, lieutenant general, senator and minister of communications. He took part in the construction of over thirty railways that eventually united into a single transportation network. Some of the railway lines built by Delvig are still in use. He also opened the first vocational schools in Russia.

Portrait of the Poet Afanasy Fet, 1882   

Afanasy Fet (1820–92) was a poet who rose to fame in the 1840. His origins were full of great trauma: born the son of a Russian landlord, at the age of 14 he lost his surname and privileges, because his biological father was his German mother’s former husband, Johann Foeth. Fet later entered military service with a view of regaining his privileges. It did happen, but not until 1873, after which he was seen as a reactionary, because he defended landowners’ rights. Fet took up writing again in the 1880s.

Portrait of the Composer César Cui, 1890 

César Cui (1835–1918) was a Russian composer and music critic of French-Lithuanian origins. He also served as a general and military engineer. Repin was a frequent guest in musical soirees arranged in Cui’s house in the 1880s and 1890s.

Surgeon J. W. Pavlov in the Operating
Theatre, 1888

This picture of a famous surgeon at work demonstrates Repin’s desire to portray the progress of science in a modern Russia. As such it is a somewhat rare painting in his output, but it is also a study of white-on-white painting, an exercise Repin also set to his students. To Pavel Tretyakov, who had commissioned the piece, Repin stressed the fact that although the subject was not treated in a markedly dramatic fashion, it was not a study but “a painting from nature”.

Ilya Repin: Demonstration on October 17, 1905 (1907–1911). State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

Challenges of the New Century 

Gallery 3.11 

The end of the 19th century marked several turning points in Repin’s life. New trends in art, such as the neo-romantic ideas of the Mir iskusstva movement, began undermining his position as a pioneer of realism. Atrophy of his right hand also caused problems. The decline of the emperor’s authority ultimately led to two revolutions in 1917.

Repin responded to these challenges by continuing to paint events of contemporary life. At the same time, he renewed his style in a more spontaneous direction, making use at times of intense impressionistic brush strokes and thick layering to convey emotional impact.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.11

Portrait of the Writer Leonid Andreyev, 1904  

Andreyev (1871–1919) was a Russian author who lived near Kuokkala in the early 1900s. He often attended the Wednesday receptions at Repin’s studio home. In 1907–08, Repin illustrated Andreyev’s novella The Seven Who Were Hanged. Andreyev physically resembled another writer who was close to Repin, Vsevolod Garshin. According to Repin, both of them created work that “extended the tradition of lofty humanism that was characteristic of Russian art in the time of [Aleksandr] Fedotov and Gogol”.  

Portrait of the Artist Dmitry Kardovsky, 1908 

Dmitry Kardovsky (1866–1943) was a student of Repin’s in the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. He himself was appointed professor of the Academy in 1907. Prior to that, 1896–1900, he had lived in Munich. Kardovsky was a prolific illustrator of classics of Russian literature. In the Soviet era, he was invited by his friend, Isaak Brodsky, to serve as teacher in the Academy, known then as the Leningrad Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1944, a year after Kardovsky’s death, the institute was renamed the Repin Institute.

In the Sun (Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Nadezhda (Nadya) Repina), 1900  

This portrait of Repin’s daughter Nadezhda Ilyinichna Repina (1874–1931) was painted in Zdravnevo in summer 1900. Having completed a course on nursing in St. Petersburg, she worked in hospitals in the area. In 1910 she fell ill with a nervous system disorder and moved to live with Repin in Penaty in Kuokkala, Finland. 

The Self Immolation of Gogol, 1909  

The picture shows Russian author Nikolay Gogol (1809–52) in the last days of his life, disappointed in his work and burning the manuscript of the second part of Dead Souls. Repin too was often preoccupied by disappointment in his own work. He repainted many of his subjects several times, and he is known to have burned one of them, the first version of Get Thee Behind Me, Satan, after cutting it up.

This painting was completed for the centenary of Nikolay Gogol’s birth. Repin also wrote an article dedicated to the writer’s life’s work. Repin was well read, knew Gogol’s entire oeuvre and had even painted several of the characters in his books. Contemporaries would sometimes call Repin “Gogol of colours”. Many of Repin’s paintings depict the decisive moment just before a final resolution. The figures are often at the very end of their strength and in a state of high anxiety, as if Repin had caught them unawares at a crucial moment.

Portrait of Aleksandr Kerensky, 1918  

In February 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, bringing a brief period of democracy to the country. Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerensky, a lawyer, became prime minister. Repin enthusiastically welcomed the February Revolution: “What joy in life we have encountered. One cannot yet believe that this is all true … Great, all-powerful God! Oh, such happiness!…” Repin was fascinated by Kerensky’s appearance, and wanted to capture it on canvas. He sketched him at Kerensky’s office, in the Tsar’s former library at the Winter Palace. The sketch was used as the basis for two painted portraits. In 1926 the old master donated one of them to a delegation of Soviet artists who visited Penates hoping to convince him to move to Soviet Russia. 

Demonstration on October 17, 1905, 1907–1911  

The subject of this work draws on the manifesto issued by Tsar Nicholas II on the day of the general strike on 17 October 1905. The decree promised to give the people “the essential foundations of civil freedom”, which led towards a constitutional monarchy and the establishment of a representative body, the Duma. The critic Vladimir Stasov and others can be seen among the demonstrators. Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, the censors banned the exhibition of the painting. In Repin’s own words, the work shows the progressive social liberation movement’s triumphal march in October 1905. It features life-size figures, primarily male and female students, professors and workers, joyously waving red flags and singing revolutionary songs. The demonstrators in the foreground have hoisted a freed political prisoner onto their shoulders as a crowd of thousands moves across the square of a large city “in an ecstasy of collective delight”.

Portrait of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, 1891   

Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858–1915) was a member of the imperial house of Romanov. Rather than embracing the obligatory military upbringing, he was more interested in literary pursuits and music. He wrote poetry and plays and translated works into Russian, including Hamlet and works by Goethe and Schiller. He was also a close friend of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The Grand Duke established several literary societies, and in gratitude for his tireless work Tsar Alexander III appointed him president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He also had close ties to Nicholas II.

Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II, 1896 

Nikolai II Aleksandrovich (1868–1918) was the Emperor of Russia and Grand Duke of Finland from 1894–1917, and was the last of the Romanov rulers. This portrait shows him in the Throne Room at the Winter Palace, dressed in a simple military uniform without insignia of power. Repin later recalled that the painting sessions were chaotic, with courtiers bustling around, making it difficult to capture the sitter’s character on canvas.

Portrait of Sergei Witte, 1903 

This painting is one of Repin’s studies for a large-scale work commissioned by the Russian government, Ceremonial Sitting of the State Council on 7 May 1901 Marking the Centenary of Its Foundation (1903). One of the members of the government included in the painting was Sergey Witte, who served as finance minister from 1892 to 1903. He succeeded in carrying out many reforms that brought wealth to Russia, although agriculture remained underdeveloped. After the general strike of 1905, Witte became prime minister and managed to bring a temporary calm to the country. He also worked to have the decrees of the 1899 February Manifesto, which affected Finland, rescinded in 1905.

Ilya Repin: “What Freedom!” (1903). State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

Time in Terijoki and Finland 

Gallery 3.12 
Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation 

Repin began a relationship with Natalia Nordmann and built a studio home in Kuokkala (now Repino) at Terijoki, Finland. The couple moved there permanently in 1903. This invigorating phase in Repin’s life lasted until 1914, when Natalia died.

The Bolshevik revolution closed the border between Finland and Russia in April 1918. Repin remained an émigré in Finland and forged ties with the Finnish art world. He donated works to the Ateneum, in recognition of which a gala dinner in his honour was held in Helsinki. In his art he concentrated on painting his near and dear ones but also motifs such as Ukrainian Cossacks and the religious experiences of his youth. Repin died in 1930. He is buried in the yard of his studio home in Kuokkala.

Artwork introductions in the gallery 3.12

”What Freedom!”, 1903  

Repin made sketches for “What Freedom!” in Kuokkala on the Gulf of Finland. His contemporaries, most notably Vladimir Stasov, drew metaphorical interpretations of the painting, seeing it as an ode to young people and students, braced for great upheavals and changes. Stasov was convinced that in this work Repin “moved for a moment away from his innate realism and truthfulness and stepped into the realm of metaphors, allegories and puzzling nutshells [sic]”. Repin dismissed the idea of any hidden meanings in the painting: “What metaphor?… it’s just a student dancing the mazurka with a female classmate, that’s all!” According to one interpretation, however, the painting represented Repin’s delight at how the house at Kuokkala had become a permanent home for himself and Natalia Nordmann. 

Double Portrait of Natalia Nordmann and Ilya Repin, 1903  

Repin’s skill in depicting the sitter’s inner life is attested by this intimate double portrait of the artist with his second wife, writer Natalia Nordmann. The two also collaborated, with Repin illustrating many of Nordmann’s books. Nordmann died in 1914 of tuberculosis in Switzerland.

Repin lived in his house, Penates, in Kuokkala (now Repino) on the Karelian Isthmus from 1903 until his death in 1930. When Kuokkala was annexed to Finland in 1918, the Soviets made unsuccessful efforts to entice him to return to Russia. Largely at Natalia Nordmann’s initiative, Penaty followed a new, modern lifestyle, with a vegetarian diet served at a famous round table. Terijoki was a popular place for Finns to spend their summers, and artists in particular were fond of the place. Wednesday receptions at Penaty were attended by Russian emigrés, along with Finnish artists known to Repin. 

Penates remains standing today, serving as a museum since the 1960s, following repairs to damage suffered during the second world war. This painting is one of the works donated to the Finnish Art Society by Repin in 1920.

Portrait of Natalia Nordmann, 1900  

Natalia Nordmann (1863–1914) was a novelist and playwright (publishing under the pen name Severova), as well as an essayist and translator. She was Repin’s common-law spouse. They met in 1898, when Repin was teaching at Princess Tenisheva’s studio in Talashkino, where Nordmann was helping Tenisheva with her charity projects. In 1899 Repin bought a house in Nordmann’s name, located in Kuokkala (then part of Finland, now known as Repino) and named it Penates after the domestic gods of ancient Rome. He painted the portrait in July 1900 at Zell am See, Austria, as the couple returned from the Paris World Exposition. 

Portrait of Mrs. Rivoir, 1918 

The sitter of this lively and direct painting is Alisa Rivoir, a teacher who is said to have given French lessons to Repin. Acquired by the Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation in 1968, the work was recently conserved for an exhibition tour. The picture was painted in oil on linoleum alla prima (wet on wet), resulting in a piece completed in one sitting.    

Self-Portrait, 1920

In this self-portrait Repin is 76 and facing one of the darkest turning points of his life. The border between Finland and Soviet Russia closed in summer 1918, and apart from his son Yury, Repin has been cut off from his family and friends. In one of his letters, he complained that he was unable to heat the studio to have a moment’s respite – to take his mind off his situation. Living in isolation, he felt himself a slave, his fingers frozen and his brain numb, and yet his heart never turned to stone. This self-portrait is painted on linoleum, which was the only support that Repin had at the time.

The Hopak (The Dance of the Zaporozhian Cossacks), 1926–1930  

The Hopak, which portrays a Ukrainian folk dance, was a milestone in Repin’s late work. Bringing this last Cossack theme to its conclusion preoccupied Repin until the end of his life. When he started to paint the work, Repin was 82 years old and facing financial difficulties. Money was too short to buy canvases, so the aging master had to be content with painting on linoleum. Speaking to a newspaper correspondent from his old home country, he described his chosen Cossack theme as a “great secret”. Repin had long pondered the subject of a monumental painting, and he wrote of the beautiful landscapes that he recalled from his youth. In those days, “…the songs didn’t stop, the Cossack songs, and as evening fell of course the Hopak dance and ‘Polish leaps’ over the campfire…”. Repin told Korney Tchukovsky that he had dedicated the painting to the memory of Modest Mussorgsky. 

Golgatha, 1921-1925

Repin worked as an icon painter in his youth. Later, in the 1890s, he became interested in Christian motifs and even travelled to Palestine to the assumed settings of events of the New Testament. In his later years he re-joined the Orthodox Church, and in his art he revisited the fate of Jesus – just like a relapsed alcoholic, as he used to say himself. Golgotha is an unconventional interpretation of the morning after the Resurrection. Through an art dealer in Helsinki, the painting ended up in Norway; from there it was later donated to the United States.

Portrait of Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1920  

Repin knew Finnish art and artists well, but he initially had no liking for Gallen-Kallela’s work, especially his paintings on Kalevala themes, with their symbolist style. He later changed his mind, and the two artists became friends. This portrait was painted in September 1920 in Helsinki, on the day following a gala dinner given by the Finnish Art Society in honour of Repin’s donation to the organisation. This energetic portrait, which emphasises the sitter’s posture, vigour and mischievous gaze, was painted in a single session. Repin also donated this work to the Finnish Art Society. He said that he was inspired by Gallen-Kallela’s height, posture, eyes, black moustache and speech, all of which reminded him of the Zaporozhian Cossacks.

Vladimir Stasov, Ilya Repin and Maxim Gorky on the veranda at Penates, August 1904. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

PRINCIPAL DATES IN THE LIFE 

1844 
Born 24 July (5 August) in Chuguev, Ukraine, into the family of a military settler Yefim Vasilyevich Repin and Tatyana Stepanovna, née Bocharova. 

1854–1863 
Studies drawing at the School of Military Topography in Chuguev. Apprenticed to the icon painter Ivan Bunakov. 

1863 
Commissioned to paint icons and murals for churches. Goes to St. Petersburg to enrol at the Drawing School of the Art Society.

1864 
Accepted as an external student at the Imperial Adacemy of Arts in St. Petersburg. Becomes a regular student in the historical painting class of the Academy.

1865 
Granted the title of free artist.

1870 
Travels along the Volga to collect material on the barge-hauler theme. Receives an order for the painting Barge Haulers on the Volga from the Grand Duke Vladimir Aleksandrovich, vice president of the Academy. 

1871 
Barge Haulers on the Volga wins Repin first prize for the Encouragement of Artists from the Art Society. Paints The Raising of Jairus’s Daughter which wins a gold medal. Gains a six-year grant to travel abroad.  

1872 
Marries Vera Shevtsova. Birth of his first daughter Vera. 

1873 
Stays in Rome, Naples and Albano, and visits Venice and Florence. Moves to Paris and rents a studio and an apartment in Montmartre. 

1874 
Takes part in the exhibition of the Peredvizhniki (Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions) for the first time. Birth of his daughter Nadezhda in Paris.

1876 
Returns to St. Petersburg with his family. Receives the title of academician for Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom

1877 
Birth of his son Yury. Moves to Moscow with his family. 

1878 
Accepted as a member of the Peredvizhniki. Lives on Savva Mamontov’s Abramtsevo estate. Makes portraits of the owners and guests at the Abramtsevo estate. 

1880 
Travels to southern Russia and the Ukraine with Valentin Serov to collect material for the Zaporozhian Cossacks. Returns to Moscow. Birth of his third daughter Tatyana.  

1881 
Travels to St. Petersburg and paints a portrait of Modest Mussorgsky in the Nicholas Military Hospital. Attends a religious procession in Kursk Governorate and makes studies for the Religious Procession in the Kursk Governorate

1882 
Meets Tolstoy frequently. Moves with his family to St. Petersburg.  

1884 
Shows Unexpected Return (They Did Not Expect Him) at the 12th exhibition of the Peredvizhniki. Accepts an order from the Ministry of the Imperial Court for the Reception of Volost Elders by Emperor Alexander III in the Courtyard of the Petrovsky Palace in Moscow

1887 
Stays with Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana for the first time and paints portraits of him. Separates from his wife, Vera Repina.  

1888 
Travels with his son Yury around southern Russia along the Volga, the Don and the Georgian Military Highway, and makes studies and sketches for the Zaporozhian Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan. Draws descendants of the Zaporozhian Cossacks in the village of Pashkovskaya.

1891 
Meets the writer Natalia Nordmann (Severova). Solo exhibition at the Academy, including the Zaporozhian Cossacks.

1892 
A smaller version of the solo exhibition opens at the Historical Museum in Moscow. Buys the Zdravnevo estate in Vitebsk Province and lives there with his daughters. Accepts an offer to run the painting studio at the Academy and becomes professor.  

1893 
The Zaporozhian Cossacks is shown at the World Fair in Chicago and wins the Grand Prix. Travels around Europe with his son Yury. Writes about his views on European modern and classical art in his “Letters on Art” for the St. Petersburg magazine Teatralnaya Gazeta. Becomes a full member of the Academy.

1894 
Takes up the post of head of the painting studio at the School of Arts, which is under the Academy.  

1898 
Appointed rector of the School of Arts for one year. Travels to Palestine via Odessa and Constantinople to see “the birthplace of the biblical nations”. 

1899 
Publishes a letter in the magazine Niva confirming his disagreements with the artistic views of the Mir iskusstva (World of Art) movement. Buys an estate, called the Penates, in the name of Natalia Nordmann, at Kuokkala on the Karelian Isthmus. Produces illustrations for short stories by Gorky and Chekhov.

1900 
Travels with Natalia Nordmann to the World Fair in Paris as an exhibitor and an adjudicator for the painting section. Receives the highest award, hors concours, at the exhibition for his portraits of Sophia Dragomirova, César Cui, Ivan Tolstoy and Evgeny Pavlov.

1903 
Begins to work with a hanging palette after overstraining his right hand. The Penates in Kuokkala becomes his permanent residence.  

1904 
Elected as an honorary member of the Moscow Literary and Artistic Society, which also includes Chekhov, Vladimir Korolenko, Leonid Andreyev and Stasov. Starts to receive visitors at the Penates on Wednesdays.

1905 
Following the events of “Bloody Sunday” (9 January), signs an appeal by the Peredvizhniki, calling for the immediate renewal of the state system. Accorded the rank of Active State Councillor. Frequent meetings with Gorky in Kuokkala. Resigns from his teaching post at the School of Arts. 

1906 
Builds an additional floor at the Penates with two studios (one facing the south for the winter and the other facing the north for the summer).

1907 
Finally leaves the teaching post at the School of Arts. 

1910 
Criticises recent art sharply in his articles ‘Izdebsky’s Salon’ andIn Python’s Hell’. 

1911 
Writes his memoirs of Tolstoy. Holds a celebration at the Penates for local residents to mark the 50th anniversary of the abolition of serfdom in Russia.

1912 
Travels to Helsinki with Korney Chukovsky and Isaak Brodsky and visits the Ateneum Art Museum.  

1914 
Elected as an honorary member of the Artists’ Association of Finland. Travels to Switzerland where Natalia Nordmann dies of tuberculosis.

1916 
Decides to publish his memoirs in a book called Far and Near (complete edition in 1937).

1917 
Welcomes the proclamation of Russia as a republic. A celebration in the Mikhailovsky Theatre in Petrograd to mark the 45th anniversary of Repin’s artistic activities.

1918 
The Russo-Finnish border is closed and the Penates estate remains on the Finnish side.

1919 
Works by Repin and his son Yury exhibited at the State Art Exhibition in the Palace of Arts (the former Winter Palace) in Petrograd. 

1920 
Donates seven of his own works and 23 pictures by other Russian artists to the Finnish Art Society in Helsinki. Elected as an honorary member of the Finnish Art Society. Exhibition of the works at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki. Granted the Order of the White Rose by the Finnish government. Attends a gala dinner in his honour, organised by the Finnish Art Society. Paints a portrait of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Publication of his articles, criticising the Soviet regime, in the emigré newspaper Mir.

1921 
Starts to paint a group portrait of Finnish artists (Great Men of Finland). Solo exhibition in New York. 

1922 
Memoirs. Barge Haulers on the Volga is published in Petrograd. His daughter, Vera moves from Petrograd to Kuokkala. Exhibits at the City Hall in Tampere. Visits Helsinki and shows works on Gospel subjects and various portraits at a solo exhibition in the Galerie Hörhammer. Works exhibited in London. 

1923 
Exhibits in Vyborg and in Prague and Brno, Czechoslovakia. 

1924 
Has a solo exhibition in Prague. Founding of the llya Repin Artists’ Association, in Moscow, by the painter’s Academy students. 

1925 
Exhibits successfully at the Strindberg Salon in Helsinki, then in Stockholm. Solo exhibitions in Prague and Nice. Exhibits at the Russian Museum in Leningrad, featuring 340 works.

1927 
Exhibition at the Strindberg Salon in Helsinki, where Golgotha, The Morning of the Resurrection, Cossacks on the Black Sea and Great Men of Finland are presented together for the first time. 

1928–1929 
Exhibitions in Prague, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Nice. 

1930 
Exhibitions in Berlin, Amsterdam and Belgrade. Celebrates his birthday at the Penates. The whole family gathers at the Penates. Repin dies and is buried at the Penates on 5 October.