05 August 1844; Chuguyev, Ukraine
29 September 1930; Repino (Kuokkala), Russian Federation
Ilya Repin was a talented Russian painter of the Peredvizhniki School, who was held up by the Soviet government as an artist to be imitated by the new school of Socialist Realists. At the age of 22, Repin began his art career at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, the same time as the “Rebellion of the Fourteen,” when 14 young artists left the school after refusing to paint mythological paintings for their diplomas. These artists would later form the Society of the Peredvizhniki, which Repin joined in 1878. Repin and the free thinking “itinerants,” as they were also called, rebelled against the formal academy, insisting that art should reflect real life. As an art student, his travels took him to Italy, Paris and Impressionist Exhibitions, and although he was exposed to the vivid colors and quick brush strokes of the impressionist style, he remained true to his unique form of realism.
Many of the subjects Repin painted were common people, like himself, although he did on many occasions paint the Russian elite, intelligentsia, and Tsar Nicholas II. He also painted many of his contemporary compatriots, including novelist Leo Tolstoy, composer Modest Mussorgsky, scientist Dmitri Mendeleev, and Ukranian painter Taras Schevchenko. A common recurring theme in his paintings was the Russian Revolutionary Movement, and as a result his works are often classified as a “Russian national style.”
In his later life, he lived in a house in Kuokkala, Finland, called the Penates, which he designed and built himself. After the October Revolution of 1917, Finland declared Independence, and Repin was invited to return to the Soviet Union. He refused, saying that he was too old to make the journey, and remained in Finland until his death thirteen years later. In 1940, the Penates house was opened to the public as a museum.