lya Repin was the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, when his position in the world of art was comparable to that of Leo Tolstoy in literature. He played a major role in bringing Russian art into the mainstream of European culture.
Repin had favorite subjects, and a limited circle of people whose portraits he painted. But he had a deep sense of purpose in his aesthetics, and had the great artistic gift to sense the spirit of the age and its reflection in the lives and characters of individuals. Repin’s search for truth and for an ideal led him various directions artistically, influenced by aspects of hidden social and spiritual experiences and national culture. Like most Russian realists of his times, Repin often based his works on dramatic conflicts rooted in reality, drawn from contemporary life or history. He also used mythological images with a strong sense of purpose. Some of his religious paintings are among his greatest.
Repin persistently searched for new techniques and content to give his work more fullness and depth. His method was the reverse of impressionism. He produced works slowly and carefully. They were the result of close and detailed study. With some of his paintings, he made one hundred or more preliminary sketches. He was never satisfied with his works, and often painted multiple versions, years apart. He also changed and adjusted his methods constantly in order to obtain more effective arrangement and grouping and coloristic power.