[DRAWING] Artist Reference, Ilya Repin


Artist: Ilya Repin

Ilya Yefimovich Repin was a Russian realist painter. He 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.

Painting 1:

The focus points of this painting are the 2 human figures standing in the waves. They don’t take up a lot of space, so there is more negative space compared to positive. The purpose for this composition is to draw our attention to the human figures and make them appear small compared to the vast sea. Their bodies are fully within frame, even though their legs are covered by the waves. The dark blue color of their clothes also contrast with the brown of the sea. There is a contrast between warm and cool colors as well as tonal value. There are also leading lines from the waves to draw focus on the 2 figures. Painting 2:

The POV is above eye level, to show the vastness of this scene. He crowds the composition with human figures to show their imposing authority. They are also placed in the bottom half of the composition, where there is not much cropping done to their figures, but more cropping done to their chairs on both left, right and bottom of the frame. There are long vertical pillars that extend to the top of the frame where they get cropped out. There is a contrast between the crowd of human figures which run across the composition horizontally and the pillars which run across the composition vertically. Though this composition is packed with subjects, there are clearly stronger areas of interest. The 2 men on the bottom left of the frame, the man standing in the middle of the frame, and the man standing on the bottom right of the frame. Painting 3:

This composition uses a clear rule of thirds, where the focal points are mainly on the right side of the composition. There is a balance between the positive space of the humans and the negative space of the sea. To emphasize the depth, the use of tonal value is very effective in this painting where the foreground and midground is darker than the background. There is also slight cropping on the human figures on the right.Painting 4:

This is a landscape composition with no cropping of the focal points on the sides of the frame. The focal points are the humans which are framed in the center and form a leading line towards the ship in the background. There is no major foreground element while much detail and consideration is based on the human figures in the midground. There is also a contrast in tonal value between the humans and their surroundings, giving a clear indication on positive and negative space.

Painting 5:

Like the previous painting, this has a similar POV and no major foreground element but in this composition, there is cropping done on the left and right sides of the frames. The humans form a leading line towards the vanishing point on the left. What stuck me the most was the huge white object being carried. on the right side of the frame. However, by placing it so close to the side of the frame, it doesn’t generate too much attention from the viewers.Painting 6:

This composition is very crowded with no obvious focal point. There is cropping on the left and right of the composition and the subjects are placed mostly in the center of the frame. The people are crowding around a single man in the middle (holding a quill) To break the organized chaos, there is some negative breathing space on the top 1/3 of the composition. There is also vertical lines extending upwards to break some of the negative space. (either flags or poles)
Painting 7:

This is one of his few portrait oriented paintings which are not portraiture.  The focal points are the 3 men in the center-right of the frame. There is no cropping done to them except for the man’s leg on the right, though it’s just a very slight cropping. There is more negative space on top than bottom, which is also disrupted by poles extending vertically upwards to the sky.The midground extending horizontally and is cropped on the left and right of the frame. Painting 8:

In this composition, there is cropping done on all 4 sides of the frame. The tension is mostly centered around the human figures in the bottom half of the frame. I wouldn’t really call them focal points, but the areas of interest are the breaks in the horizontal flow of the humans, i.e. the figures on the top half of the composition. The 1905 sign, the man and the red bouquet of flowers. Painting 9:

This painting is rather different from his other works. It’s one of his few portrait oriented paintings which are not portraiture and it depicts some mythical elements and creatures. The focal point it the bright center, where there is a lady looking at a man. There is great contrast between her being bright and him being dark in tonal structure. There is no cropping done to the subjects, but only to the surrounding elements. 

Painting 10:

There is a clearer foreground element in this composition, which is the chair. There is no major cropping on the left, but there is on the right. There are leading lines to draw our attention to the man on the left of the frame through the door and the gazes from the other people in this composition.

Whole relation:

What intrigues me about Repin’s artworks is that he paints in such a way where it’s obvious that there is a story going on in his paintings. His subjects are always doing something or reacting to something and it makes the viewers curious. He is also fond of placing the horizon line on eye level or slightly above it. There is also usually no major foreground element to his paintings, but treats his backgrounds with much attention and consideration. He also likes to overlap his subjects in the midground to create depth, as can be seen from almost all of my examples.

There is a variety in texture in each of his paintings to create detail and visual interest. He is a master of creating grand and dignified imagery through the use of composition and gestures. Paintings 1, 2, 8 and 9 are such examples where he was able to perfectly capture the grandiose atmosphere. When the people are to be celebrated, he crowds his composition with them (paintings 2, 8 and 9) and if the waves were to be the thing that’s to be deemed magnificent (painting 1) , it’ll be the one taking up the most space.


Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar