I haven't got the book with me so I can't point to the page that truly defines this effort but the painting it obliterates is Ivan the terrible and his son. Here is what they do: First it is important to remember that this is Repin's best known painting, thus it gets a two page spread! On this two page spread there are two margins of about an inch, on each side of the painting. The key point, the focus for the entire painting is the face of Ivan and his son. This focal point is square in the middle of the binding, completely cut from view unless you want to tear the book out of its bindings (not a bad idea). Had they moved the painting off center by... say 3/4s of an inch either left or right they would have had the focal point in view. They could have also made it a one page picture and used close ups to see detail. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually matter because the reproduction is so dull that the blood, yes that is blood, is a rather bland greyish red. I understand that Repin was working from a limited palatte here and that the remainder of the painting is rather bland but not those reds. Now the written portion of this book is well done as far as I have read, so this isn't a complete loss but for good reproductions of Repin's work the wait continues.
This work covers an area that is neglected by Art historians in most publications, if not all publications, in the United States. The leading Art Historians may mention icon painting in Russia and St. Basil but that is the extent of their coverage.
The period of the Wanderers is probably as interesting and revolutionary as is the artistic movement in France with the advent of Impressionism. Ilya Repin was a leading artist in this movement. In simple terms the movement involved social realism. Prior to this movement the Russian Artist had no oppotunity to explore those things that were Russian. The artist now found that there were Russian subjects that demanded their attention. The Western European themes were discarded and Russian genre painting was the aim. The artist now saw beauty in the life of the peasant and in the history of Russia. The author has not just touched on this subject but has in exploring the life of Ilya Repin covered the subject with clarity and verve. It must have been a labor of love.
The author has an in depth review of Ilya Repin's life and an extensive collection of the artists work. He paints word pictures that add to the enjoyment of Ilya Repin's masterpieces. The quotes and biographic statements show an in depth study of the life and times of Ilya Repin.
One star is lacking because, even though I do crossword puzzles, there were times when I had to go to the dictionary. It is too bad that authors of Art Books try to impress the reader, when in fact they do just the opposite.
For any art lover and especially for lovers of realism this book is a must. If the reader is looking for a history of the evolution of Russian painting he or she will not be disappointed in this volume.Read more ›
Westerners have little cultural exposure to Russian art, which is extremely unfortunate since there are several naturalist painters - Aivazovsky, Levitan, Repin and Shishkin come to mind - whose works should be widely known and appreciated for technical execution, even if the viewer is not a particular fan of representational painting. I was introduced to the painters above through a chapter in Paul Johnson's Art: A New History (a 5-star book), and based on the limited samples therein, I set about acquiring one good book on each of them.
The specific painting chosen by Johnson to celebrate Repin's skill is "The Return," a dramatic evocation of the family turmoil and shock created by the unexpected release of a political prisoner from a labor camp, and his entrance into the family sitting room. This painting is so compelling that acquiring a Repin book became a high priority. I had especially wanted to see other examples of his work detailing the environment of Russian political repression. After several years of false starts and trying to order books on perpetual back-order, I succeeded in locating this volume, which probably ranks as the definitive Repin book available in English.
It is true, as another reviewer stated, that the color reproductions leave something to be desired - and may even be atrocious - but the book showcases Repin's development as a painter, and his historical importance as a member of the Wanderers school. In particular, it demonstrates his mastery of many themes going far beyond the scope of "political repression," which is what Johnson's example and text discussion had led me to expect.
My quibble with the book is the dearth of color plates. Given that Repin's oeuvre is so inaccessible to Westerners, the more that could have been stuffed in the book, the better.