This is the second (and most known) version of the Unexpected Visitors. The first one was painted by Repin in 1883; it was significantly smaller both by size and by quantity of personages (the main character was a girl accompanied by a woman and two more girls, supposedly her mother and sisters).
Before long, Repin started to paint the second version. He worked in his country house not far from St.Petersburg; the room portrayed in the picture was artist’s living room. As models for female characters, he used his wife, mother-in-law, and his daughter.
In a year Unexpected Visitors was exposed in a Traveling Art Exhibition. However, the artist continued to improve this picture within next four years. In particularly, he repainted the face of the young man (a political exile who unexpectedly came back home) four times in search of a proper expression. It is generally believed that by depicting various reaction of young man’s household Repin tried to show diverse but mostly positive attitude of society toward revolutionary movements of that time. Actually, under strict censorship of Czarist Russia, it was a political declaration disguised as an everyday genre scene.