Russian Realism

I chose to focus on the painting Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin. It was painted between 1870 and 1873 as his first commissioned work after graduation from the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. Repin then joined the group known as the Peredvizhniki, or the Wanderer’s, in the late 1870’s. I found it interesting that Repin attended the Academy at the same time as the group of 14 that started the Peredvizhniki but still decided to graduate but joined them afterwards. I think his work on the Barge Haulers on the Volga connects him to the Peredvizhniki even though he was not an official member at the time that he completed the work. The timing of the work demonstrates to me that although he did not leave the Academy with the group of 14 he sympathized or agreed with their views that art should reflect life. The work shows a crew of barge haulers pulling a ship through the river. The work highlights the facial features and the deprived bodies of the haulers. As part of the realist movement, Repin is showing a task that would place someone in the lowest group of Russian society. This differs dramatically from the classical works in which the highest levels of society were painted. I think the realists work helped contribute to the future Bolshevik Revolution by providing culture to the masses in Russia instead of having art be strictly for the upper classes and rich. By showing the common man and the worker Repin highlighted the differences between the upper classes of society and the working classes of society.

Additional Sources              Accessed 8/30/2015       Accessed 8/30/2015       Accessed 8/30/2015               Accessed 8/30/2015

3 thoughts on “Russian Realism

  1. I really enjoyed your post and your insight regarding the depraved workers and how they were trod upon by the rich is something I found in my study as well. The Barge Haulers showcase how great of an impact art can have on not only an individual but a society as well. I also totally agree with your comment on how the difference between what high society artists would focus on and how the wanderers purposefully chose to showcase the change in the air, not only regarding what their paintings were based on but also the shift in the political movement that was coming, which can clearly be seen in the Barge Haulers. Thanks the fun read!


  2. This piece of art is particularly moving. As you said, it really does give a good insight into the lives of the poor working class of Russia at that time. The ultra-realism helps capture the mood, mindset, and beliefs of those captured in the work. In many ways the ship could represent the upper estates of Russia that glided by on the backs of those they believed to be lesser people. It shows the great dichotomy between class at the time and the fierce struggle the peasants were willing to go through to simply earn ends meat. Good job breaking this down!


  3. Great introduction. I wrote an article on the same piece of artwork and had no idea of Repin’s background with “The Wanderers” during his academy days. However, I only have two minor gripes about the article. First, you should find a way to copy and paste the image into your article so that your audience is able to see it. Second, I like that you analyzed the painting in relation to the Peredvizhniki, however, I believe you could have also gone into depth on the meaning of the painting and the relevance of the younger man who seems to represent an awakening in the younger generation. Otherwise, fantastic article. If you’d like to see my point of view on the painting the link is


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s