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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

We can learn more about the personality behind these extraordinary paintings by examining the life and career of Ilya Repin in our biography plus the list of quotes displayed here.

Famous Quotes by Ilya Repin

The face and soul of man, the drama of life, the impressions of nature, its life and meaning, the spirit of history—these are our themes.

The French are not interested in people at all, only in costumes, colors and light.

Ilya Repin describing the French impressionists after a trip to Paris

[I cannot wait for the moment that] this abomination falls apart.

Repin describing Nicholas II's regime

In the soul of a Russian person there is a feature of special, hidden heroism. This is the intrinsic, deep passion of the soul that eats a person, his worldly personality until self-forgetfulness. No one will appreciate such a feat: he lies under the hood of his personality, he is invisible. But this is the greatest power of life; it moves mountains; she makes great conquests; it was she in Messina that surprised the Italians; she led the battle of Borodino; she went after Minin; she burned Smolensk and Moscow. And she filled the heart of the elderly Kutuzov. Everywhere she is: modest, unprepossessing, embarrassing before herself from without, because she inside is full of the greatest heroism, adamant will and determination. She merges entirely with her idea, "she is not afraid to die." That's where her greatest strength is: she is not afraid of death. Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov was this deep Russian nature. Painting is so painting! - He completely loved her and was faithful to her and lived with her until the last breath. The delights that were experienced by his soul from his beloved, we will never know. They were so dear to the artist: either with grief from failures, then with bright happiness from fulfilled desires; the revelation of the new in his beloved illuminated him with such a light of joy, bliss! He had a prosaic attitude to life: is it so, isn’t it all the same? All prose and all this is neither important nor interesting ... And this - uninteresting - is only available to us now; what can you write about it, and even print?

Serov's art is like a rare gem: the more you look at it, the deeper it draws you into the depths of its charm. Here is a real diamond. At first, maybe you will not pay attention: the subject is modest, especially in size; but once you feel the pleasure of his charms, you will not forget them. And these fakes of enormous size, in magnificent frames, after true jewelry, will seem rude and miserable to you.

Quotes about Ilya Repin by Art Critics and Fellow Artists

[Repin] depicts the life of the people much better than any other Russian artist.

Leo Tolstoy

Repin is capable of depicting the Russian peasant exactly as he is. I know many artists who have painted peasants, some of them very well, but none of them ever came close to what Repin does.

Kramskoi in correspondence with Stasov, 1876

The bitter faith of human baggage has never been shown to people in such horrible amounts, in such a great and piercing chord.

Vladimir Stasov, regarding Barge Haulers on the Volga