Il\’ya Repin was a Ukrainian realist painter and was considered one of the most proficient portraitists of his time. His place in the Russian art world was compared to Leon Tolstoy\’s prominence in literature. He was born in Chuhuiv, Ukraine, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time.
Repin started painting icons as a teenager and tried to gain admittance the famed Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. When he was not chosen, he went to the city and began to audit classes until he was admitted. The Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich commissioned a large painting from him in 1870, \’The Boatmen on the Volga,\’ and it launched his career. He later lived in France for two years and learned about Impressionism and how to paint outdoors as they often did.
Kuokkala was a town near Saint Petersburg where Repin and his second wife purchased a home. While he initially supported the Russian Revolution, he came to abhor the violence. Finland broke away from Russia in 1917, and Kuokkala became part of this area. He remained there when Stalin demanded his return to Russia. Kuokkala is now known as Repino in his honor, it was ceded back to Russia in 1949, long after his death. His home is now a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage site.