Ilya Repin (1844–1930) exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum was extensive and magnificent. The exhibition is the first review of Repin's entire career in Finland in the 21st century and features more than 130 paintings and paper-based works from more than sixty years. Included are large-scale iconic paintings such as the Barge Haulers on the Volga and the Religious Procession in Kursk, although I admired more of Repin’s smaller sized works and especially the portraits in which he conjures up the model’s personality and masterfully depicts their expressions.
The Ateneum Repin pages are great. For this post, I gathered information for the photos I took (in italic). The first painting I admired was this small-scale painting below, where the interpretation of light and shadow is dazzling.
Preparing for the examination, 1864
Only 20-year-old Ilya Repin painted brothers Alexander and Alexei Shevtsov of almost his own age,
for whom reading to either does not seem to taste right now. They were the brothers of Repin’s
future wife, Vera Shevtsova.
Repin’s wife Vera Shevtsova, 1869
Vera Shevtsova (1854–1918) was Repin’s wife from 1872–1884. They had four children: Vera (1872–1948), Nadezhda (1874–1931), Yuri (1877–1954), and Tatiana (1880–1957). Vera was 17 years old and had a good basic education, formally better than Repin himself. However, the marriage gradually became unhappy. In Moscow between 1877 and 1882, Repin became father of three different illegitimate children with family's servants.
Repin's eldest daughter Vera Repina, 1884 - a charming work in nature!
A delicate painting of Repint's daughter Nadja, 1881.
Vera Repina, 1896
Self-portrait with Natalia Nordman, 1903
Repin entered into a relationship with Natalia Nordmann and built a studio home in Terijoki's Kuokkala, that then belonged to Finland. The couple settled there permanently in 1903. Terijoki was a popular Finnish summer destination, where artists from various fields enjoyed themselves. Penaty's Wednesday receptions brought Russian emigrants and also Finnish artists familiar to Repin. Natalia died of tuberculosis in 1914, but Repin remained in Kuokkala.
The Bolshevik Revolution closed the Finnish-Russian border in April 1918. Repin remained as emigrant in the Finnish side and established relations with the Finnish art world. He donated works of art to the Ateneum, and in honor of this, a large celebration was held for Repin at the Helsinki Society Hall. In his art, he described his close circle, but also nostalgically sought out his youth in Ukraine as well as his religious experiences. Repin died in 1930, and his grave is in the courtyard of the studio home in Kuokkala (now Repino).
Fieldman (Author Leo Tolstoy plowing), 1887
Tolstoy was the closest of Russian writers to Repin. They first met in Moscow in 1880 and then, for example, on Tolstoy's estates in Jasnaya Poljana in 1887 and 1891. Repin appreciated Tolstoy's way of life, which emphasized love of neighbor and which should not be undermined by norms set by church, monarch or society.
Author Leonid Andrejev, 1904
M. P. Mussorgsky, 1881
Nikolai Murashko, 1882
Ucranian Woman, 1875
What Freedom!, 1903
This large painting is a Public Domain image from the web. It amazed with its difference.
Repin sketched the painting on the shores of the Gulf of Finland in Kuokkala. His contemporaries gave the work symbolic interpretations: the painting was like a praise to youth and students who were ready for great upheavals and changes like natural forces. Repin himself dismissed all the hidden meanings of his painting: “What a supposed metaphor! … That's just a student dancing masurka with a course girl, that's all! ” According to one interpretation, in the painting one could see Repin rejoicing at how Kuokkala's home had become his and Natalia Nordmann's permanent residence at the time.
Safe distances were maintained at the Ateneum and the number of visitors was limited.
Tickets had to be purchased in advance. A wonderful exhibition!