Portrait of Leo Tolstoy by Ilya Repin

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Портрет Льва Николаевича Толстого - Илья Ефимович Репин

Painting NamePortrait of Leo Tolstoy
Painter NameIlya Repin
Completion Date1887
TechniqueOil
MaterialCanvas
Current LocationThe Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow Russian Federation)

Title of the painting represents two greatest artists from Russia. One is Ilya Repin himself and another is Leo Tolstoy, who doesn’t need any introduction. They both were ample artists and Ilya Repin is said to enjoy a respect in his art similar to Leo Tolstoy enjoyed in his literature. The convergence of these two big figures in one art-work is enough to make the art-work utterly important.

Ilya Repin painted many portraits of Leo Tolstoy after they befriend in 1878. Leo Tolstoy Ploughing, Leo Tolstoy Barefoot and a pencil work called Leo Tolstoy Reading are the three works associated to Leo Tolstoy other than the current picture.

Ilya Repin painted this portrait of Leo Tolstoy in 1887 with oil on canvas. It represents the greatest Russian writer sitting on a chair with a book in his hand. We can the painter’s signature and date of creation (in Russian) on the lower left hand side of the painting.

The painting captures Leo Tolstoy in his old times, where his mentalities and thoughts saw a radical change leaving his marriage life utterly unhappy. His thoughts on life were so changed that he even wanted to reject his copyrights on his earlier works. This made his wife unhappy. Before that, they made a very good couple and had total of 13 children.

At the peak of his fame, Tolstoy was more interested refusing the fame and wealth and this is a result of his deep and radical thinking. Maybe it caused some damage to his personal life, but that deep, radical thinking was also the source of his groundbreaking works such as War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Kingdom of God Is Within You.

The first two novels were produced in his early years when he was living happily with his wife. She became his personal assistance handling financial matters for him. This gave him full time and freedom for his masterpieces. Both included stories of aristocratic families. War and Peace was, undoubtedly, a masterpiece, but Anna Karenina has been considered as the greatest realist fiction novel of all times. Even Leo Tolstoy has put Anna Karenina ahead of War and Peace, stating it as his first true novel.

The Kingdom of God is Within You is the book written in his old times and is the very same book which affected national father of India, Mohandas Gandhi, to begin a non-violent resistant. The modern Christian Anarchism is having the book as their key text for its pacifist views.

Portraits always put people in their most normal and simple stance, which sometimes falls short at telling the grandeur of the depicted person. For people, who are still unaware of Leo Tolstoy would see the picture as just another portrait painting, while who knows his legacy and are enthusiasts of his appealing work, would like to hang it in their rooms as their daily inspiration.

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