Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Repin – Tour for families

The Repin exhibition has lots to interest visitors of all ages, adults and kids alike. We’ve put together some ideas for looking at the art works with the whole family. Be prepared to see new things, when looking at art from a child’s perspective. Find your favourites, discuss and wonder about them together!

Ilya Repin was a Russian artist who lived about 100 years ago. He is best known for his portraits of emperors and famous artists, as well as large paintings with crowds of people but also realistic pictures of the life of poor people. What thoughts, ideas and emotions come to your mind when you look at his works?

Gallery 3.1 Studies and Paris

The painting shows eleven men who seem to be exhausted. They are pulling a barge, a boat that carries goods on a river. Barges float downstream with the current, but they have to be hauled upstream. This painting was made at a time when boats did not have engines. Think about it – people pulling a ship. That must have been very difficult!

To do together:

Study the barge haulers closely and the expression on their faces, then choose one. What does his expression and posture tell you? Can you tell what he is thinking?

Ilja Repin: Sadko i havskungens rike (1876)

Gallery 3.1 Studies and Paris

Repin won a monetary prize for his Barge Haulers, which meant he could travel abroad from Russia. He went to Paris, France, One of the works he made there was Sadko. Based on a Russian fairy tale, it tells of Sadko, a trader who on his adventures visited the Sea-King in the underwater realm. Sadko played the harp so well that the king didn’t want to let him go. In the story, the king offered Sadko one of his daughters in marriage. The picture shows the moment Sadko chooses his wife.

To do together:

Study the painting closely. How can you tell what it is happening underwater? What makes the painting seem like a fairy tale? Which woman do you think Sadko will choose? How can you tell? What do you think: is it possible to choose your life partner?

To do together: The story in the painting

With everyone taking turns, tell a story about this painting. The first person starts with the traditional opening of fairy tales: Once upon a time… After a few sentences, the next one in line continues the story. What adventures will the underwater people have in your story?

teoskuva: Ilja Repin Säveltäjä Modest Musorgskin muotokuva (1881)

Gallery 3.4 Artist Portraits

Repin was hugely interested in people – he created over 2,000 portraits! Many of them are of his friends, other artists, writers, musicians and actors.

These two pictures show a famous composer and a pianist. Repin often painted the sitter without any details in the background or objects that might indicate what sort of a person is being depicted. He concentrated instead on the person’s face, expression and posture, which often communicate a strong sense of the sitter’s personality and character.

To do together: Talking head

Choose a portrait that interests you. What is the person thinking and feeling? Compare your impressions of his/her thoughts and frame of mind.

Ilja Repin: Yrhätta (Porträtt av konstnärens dotter Vera Repina) (1884). Tretiakovgalleriet. © Tretiakovgalleriet, Moskva

Gallery 3.6 Family

Some of the people in the portraits are members of Repin’s own family. This is Vera Repina, the artist’s daughter. The title of the portrait, Dragonfly, implies that Vera was a lively little child. She must have been reluctant to sit for too long for her father’s painting. It was a sunny summer day, and there were probably a hundred things she would rather be doing. The painting is airy and filled with light. How would you describe Vera?

To do together:

“Dragonfly” can be a charming nickname. Do you have nicknames for each other in your family? Try to think of nicknames for everyone in your family that would best describe his or her character or interests. The purpose of a nickname is to bring joy and delight.

Gallery 3.9. The Full Spectrum of Russian Culture

It is alright to laugh in a museum? Sure it is! Many of Repin’s paintings have lots of people in them, and all the figures have their own expressions and gestures. The men in this painting seem to be bursting with laughter. The picture is based, in part, on real events. The writing of the letter took place a long time ago, during a war between Turkey and Russia that took place from 1672–1681.

The men in the painting are Cossacks. They are writing to answer a letter from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, in which he demands that they remain faithful to him. The Cossacks seem to disagree. They want to be free.

To do together:

The painting is a real treasure chest of all kinds of laughter. What different types of laughter can you find in it?

  • Belly laughs?
  • Giggling?
  • Laughing like a horse?
  • Hee-hawing?
  • Quiet tittering?
  • Hysterical laughter that goes on and on until you have tears in your eyes and your sides are aching?
  • Other kinds of laughter?