July 01, 2014

Distorted Portrait of an Artist

Distorted Portrait of an Artist
Ilya Repin, 1914

One of the most striking things about Ilya Repin is how much he managed to accomplish over his long life. He was born in 1844 in the Eastern Ukrainian town of Chuguyev, where his family lived in a military settlement. By the time he died in the Finnish town of Kuokkala, in 1930 – in a different country and an entirely different era – he was a world-renowned artist.

It is a bit of a cliché that great artists do not live long, but Repin defied the stereotype, living a life that was not only long but amazingly energetic. Everything he did – paint, discuss art, swim in the cold waters of Finland, listen to music – he did with an energetic spirit that endured for 86 years.

Repin was extremely prolific. It would probably be hard to find another artist who left behind as many paintings. His close friend Korney Chukovsky wrote a eulogy in his honor that ended with the following summary:

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