Ilia Efimovich Repin (Russian, 1844–1930)
Oil on canvas
35 x 27 1/4 in. (88.9 x 69.2 cm)
Signed and dated (lower left, in Russian): 1884 / I. Repin
Gift of Humanities Fund Inc., 1972 (1972.145.2)
The sitter for this painting was the twenty-nine-year-old Russian author Vsevolod Garshin, whose life was scarred by the suicides of his father and brother and his own struggles with mental illness. Garshin published approximately twenty stories, many of which powerfully express his pacifist beliefs, his love of beauty, and his aversion to evil. At the age of thirty-three, he committed suicide by throwing himself down a stairwell.
Like Garshin, the artist Repin was concerned with contemporary political and social issues. In the mid-1870s, after returning from three years of study in France, he befriended a number of compatriot Russian intellectuals. After meeting Garshin in the early 1880s, Repin convinced the writer to pose as the czar's son for the monumental painting Czar Ivan the Terrible with the Body of His Son (1885; State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow).