Repin was born in the Ukrainian town of Chuhuiv (Chuguev) when it was part of the Russian Empire. He went on to become a major progressive painter. In the early 1880s, he met Garshin, an acclaimed writer who shared his concern for contemporary political and social problems. Repin made several portraits in this decade of artists in his orbit in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The rich tonal contrasts and lush brushwork are indebted to art he saw while studying in Paris. Four years after this picture was painted, Garshin, scarred by the suicides of his father and brother and his own mental illness, threw himself down a stairwell and died.
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Title:Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin (1855–1888)
Artist:Illia Repin (Ilia Efimovich Repin) (Ukrainian, born Russian Empire, Chuhuiv (Chuguev) 1844–1930 Repino, St. Petersburg (Kuokkala))
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:35 x 27 1/4 in. (88.9 x 69.2 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Humanities Fund Inc., 1972
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left, in Russian): 1884 / I. Repin
the artist (1884–87; sold for 500 rubles to Tereschenko); Ivan Nikolaevich Tereschenko, Kiev [Kyiv] (1887–d. 1903); Tereschenko-Khanenko family, Kiev [Kyiv] and later Villa Mariposa, Cannes (1903–29; sold to Bakhmeteff); Boris A. Bakhmeteff, New York (1929–d. 1951); Humanities Fund Inc., New York (1951–72)
St. Petersburg. location unknown. "Fifteenth Exhibition of the Peredvizhniki," February 25–March 29, 1887, no. 59 (lent by Tereschenko, Kiev [Kyiv]) [see Grabar 1937 and Valkenier 1993].
Moscow. location unknown. "Fifteenth Exhibition of the Peredvizhniki," April–?, 1887, no. 59 [see Valkenier 1993; exhibition travelled to Kharkov, Odessa, Yelisavetgrad, and Kyiv].
St. Petersburg. Taurida Palace. "Russian Portraits," 1905, no. 1713 (lent by Bogdan Khanenko, Kiev [Kyiv]).
Paris. Grand Palais. "Salon d'Automne: Exposition de l'art russe," October 6–November 15, 1906, no. 453 (as "Wsévolod Mikhaïlovitch Garchine [1855–1888], littérateur," lent by Mme E. Térestchenko, Kiev [Kyiv]).
New York. Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, New York University. "Changes in Perspective: 1880–1925," May 2–June 2, 1978, unnumbered cat. (p. 28).
Moscow. State Tretyakov Gallery. "Ilia Efimovich Repin, 1844–1930: In Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of His Birth," October 7–December 15, 1994, no. 175 (as "Portrait of V. M. Garshin").
St. Petersburg. State Russian Museum. "Ilia Efimovich Repin, 1844–1930: In Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of His Birth," February 20–May 15, 1995, no. 175.
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "RUSSIA!," September 16, 2005–January 11, 2006, no. 113.
Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin. Letter to V. M. Larkin. August 10, 1884 [see Ref. Grabar 1937, p. 274], mentions that Repin is about to finish a portrait of him.
Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov. Letter to Repin. March 27, 1888 [published in M. N. Grigor'eva and A. N. Shchekotova, eds., "Pis'ma Repina. Perepiska s P. M. Tret'iakovym, 1873–1898," Moscow and Leningrad, 1946, p. 132, letter 169], in the context of negotiations for the purchase of a painting by the artist, names this work as one of three that Repin had sold inexpensively to a rival collector, Tereschenko.
Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov. Letter to Repin. November 24, 1889 [published in M. N. Grigor'eva and A. N. Shchekotova, eds., "Pis'ma Repina. Perepiska s P. M. Tret'iakovym, 1873–1898," Moscow and Leningrad, 1946, p. 140, letter 182], in the context of negotiations for the purchase of a painting by the artist, mentions that the artist had sold this work for 500 rubles.
S[ergei]. N[ikolaevich]. Durylin. Repin i Garshin: Iz istorii russkoi zhivopisi i literatury. Moscow, 1926, pp. 55–56.
Sergei Ernst. Ilia Efimovich Repin, 1844–1930. Leningrad [St. Petersburg], 1927, p. 82, no. 1713, lists it in the exhibition of Russian portraits at the Taurida Palace in 1905.
Igor Grabar. Repin. Moscow, 1937, vol. 1, p. 274 n. 2, vol. 2, pp. 46–47, 236–37 n. 87, pp. 273, 303, ill. between pp. 32–33, refers to a letter of August 10, 1884 in which Garshin states that Repin is about to finish a portrait of him [Ref. Garshin 1884]; comments that this portrait required many sittings; notes that it was listed in the collection of Tereschenko in the 15th Peredvizhniki exhibition [Exh. St. Petersburg 1887]; describes the mutual admiration between sitter and artist and mentions that Repin painted another portrait of Garshin as a study for "Ivan the Terrible and His Son" (1885; State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow).
Igor Grabar. Repin. Moscow, 1948, vol. 1, pp. 13–14, 70, 174, 182, 216, notes that a well-known portrait of Garshin, formerly in the collection of B. I. Khanenko, Kiev [Kyiv], was brought in some unknown way to Paris.
Illia Repin (Ilia Efimovich Repin). Dalekoe Blizkoe [The Distant Near]. Moscow, 1953, pp. 369–72, 501 n. 1, states that he wanted to paint Garshin's portrait from the time they first met; recalls that Garshin often read aloud between poses when sitting for this picture.
D. Sarabyanov. Ilya Repin. Moscow, , p. 41, mentions it among Repin's portraits that embody "the tragedy through which the progressive Russian intelligentsia was living during the grim years of tsarist reaction"; gives its location as unknown.
John E. Bowlt. "A Russian Luminist School? Arkhip Kuindzhi's Red Sunset on the Dnepr." Metropolitan Museum Journal 10 (1975), p. 120, fig. 2, as "Portrait of Vsevolod Garshin"; observes that "despite the energetic brushwork and the intense expression of the eyes, the value of Repin's work is now primarily historical rather than artistic"; translates relevant passages in Nevedomskii and Repin 1913 into English.
Alison Hilton. "The Revolutionary Theme in Russian Realism." Art and Architecture in the Service of Politics. Ed. Henry A. Millon and Linda Nochlin. Cambridge, Mass., 1978, p. 121.
Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier. "Repin's Search for the Revolutionary's Image in 'They Did Not Expect Him'." Gazette des beaux-arts 91 (May–June 1978), p. 209.
Alison Hilton. Letter to Bob Simon. March 8, 1978, calls this picture virtually identical in pose to another Repin portrait of Garshin, illustrated as an etched frontispiece in an 1884 edition of Garshin's writings.
John Bowlt. "The Peculiar History of 'Forest Fire': Where There's Smoke..." Art News 78 (December 1979), ill. p. 119.
Fan Parker and Stephen Jan Parker. Russia on Canvas: Ilya Repin. University Park, Pa., 1980, p. 86.
O[lga]. Lyaskovskaya. Ilya Repin: His Life and His Work. Moscow, 1982, ill. p. 260, as "Portrait of V. M. Garshin".
John E. Bowlt. "Recent Publications on Modern Russian Art." Art Bulletin 64 (September 1982), p. 489.
Peter Henry. A Hamlet of His Time: Vsevolod Garshin, the Man, His Works, and His Milieu. Oxford, 1983, ill. on cover.
Maria Karpenko et al. inIlya Repin: Painting, Graphic Arts. Leningrad [St. Petersburg], 1985, p. 263, under no. 140.
Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier. Ilya Repin and the World of Russian Art. New York, 1990, pp. 111, 216 n. 20.
Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier. "The Writer as Artist's Model: Repin's Portrait of Garshin." Metropolitan Museum Journal 28 (1993), pp. 207–16, ill., states that this picture was executed over several sittings in the summer of 1884, while Repin was also working on "They Did Not Expect Him" and "Ivan the Terrible and His Son" (both State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow); argues that "it is redolent with meaningful references to the problems the Russian intelligentsia faced" following the 1881 assassination of Alexander II by revolutionaries; cites August 1884 letters by Garshin and Repin reporting their satisfaction with this portrait and quotes the artist's appraisal of the sittings as "a welcome 'rest' from other taxing work"; notes that initial reviews of this painting during its first public showing [Exh. St. Petersburg 1887] criticized its depiction of Garshin's unstable state of mind; notes that in 1885, after Tretyakov purchased "They Did Not Expect Him," he asked Repin to repaint the exile's face and suggested using Garshin as a model, "no doubt having in mind the calm and penetrating gaze of the [MMA] portrait".
I. A. V. Bruk inIlia Efimovich Repin, 1844–1930: In Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of His Birth. Exh. cat., State Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow, 1994, pp. 148, 293, no. 175, ill., describes "the special beauty of his eyes, filled with a serious shyness, often dimmed with a mysterious tear".
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 179, ill.
David Jackson. "Garshin and Repin. Writer and Artist in a Creative Relationship." Vsevolod Garshin at the Turn of the Century: An International Symposium in Three Volumes. Ed. Peter Henry et al. Oxford, 1999, vol. 2, p. 103.
Peter Henry et al., ed. Vsevolod Garshin at the Turn of the Century: An International Symposium in Three Volumes. Oxford, 2000, vol. 1, ill. frontispiece (color).
Sjeng Scheijen in Henk van Os and Sjeng Scheijen. Ilya Repin: Russia's Secret. Exh. cat., Groninger Museum, Groningen. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2001, p. 31.
Robert Rosenblum inRUSSIA! Nine Hundred Years of Masterpieces and Master Collections [catalogue for "RUSSIA!"]. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 2005, p. 166, colorpl. 113, discusses it among late 19th century Russian portraits which provide a "sense of intruding into a closed, personal realm".
Galina Tschurak inIlja Repin und seine Malerfreunde: Russland vor der Revolution. Ed. Sabine Fehlemann. Exh. cat., Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal. Wuppertal, 2005, p. 19.
David Jackson. The Russian Vision: The Art of Ilya Repin. Schoten, Belgium, 2006, p. 183.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 161, 210, 300, no. 150, ill. (overall and detail).
Allison Leigh. Picturing Russia's Men: Masculinity and Modernity in 19th-Century Painting. London, 2020, pp. 231–37, 239–40, 244–46, 250 n. 63, ill. on cover, fig. 6.3, pl. 6.2 (color, overall and details), discusses the painting at length as an example of male portraits of the period "deeply embedded in concerns about male weakness characteristic of the time . . . [and] embroiled in contemporary anxieties about men's mental and physical degeneration".
Allison Leigh. "Farewell to Russian Art: On Resistance, Complicity, and Decolonization in a Time of War." Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 21 (Autumn 2022), p. 141, figs. 12, 13 (color, gallery label and object page screenshot) [http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/autumn22/practicing-art-history-on-resistance-complicity-and-decolonization-in-a-time-of-war], argues that the artist should be identified as Ukrainian.
Repin was a subject of the Russian Empire until it ended in 1917 and then a resident of Finland until his death in 1930. He also had strong Ukrainian biographical and cultural ties during a period of growing Ukrainian national consciousness. As a result, his national identities are complex. The Department of European Paintings currently describes Repin as "Ukrainian, born Russian Empire," to reflect the dual intersecting nationalities identified in scholarship on the artist.
The city where Repin lived from 1889 to 1930, Kuokkala, was part of the Grand Duchy of Finland, a self-governing part of the Russian Empire, until the Russian Revolution in 1917, when the town was absorbed within independent Finland. Kuokkala became part of the Soviet Union in the 1940s. It was renamed Repino, in honor of Repin, in 1948, and is now considered part of St. Petersburg.
On Repin’s national identities, see Thomas M. Prymak, "A Painter from Ukraine: Ilya Repin," Canadian Slavonic Papers / Revue Canadienne des Slavistes 55, nos. 1–2 (March–June 2013), pp. 19–43. Prymak considers the arguments for the artist’s Ukrainian and Russian national identities. See also Leigh 2022.
Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin was born on his family’s estate, "Pleasant Valley," in the Bakhmut district of Ekaterinoslav province in the Russian Empire, an area now in eastern Ukraine. He came from a noble Russian military family that traced its lineage to a prince in the Mongol khanate. Many Russian nobles had estates in the southern part of the Russian Empire, in present-day Ukraine. He moved to St. Petersburg for schooling at about eight or nine years of age.
In 1877, Garshin volunteered for service in the Russo-Turkish War and was wounded in battle that summer. The experience inspired the publication later that year of Four Days, a short story about a wounded soldier that made Garshin famous. He continued to publish short stories, often about war, madness, and evil, until shortly before his death.
Repin met the author Garshin in 1882. Garshin was the subject of an 1883 portrait by the artist, used as a study for the son in Czar Ivan the Terrible with the Body of His Son (both State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). The Met's portrait may also have influenced the face of the returning exile in Repin's painting They Did Not Expect Him (1884, Tretyakov Gallery; see Valkenier 1993). A copy of The Met's portrait is in the Garshin Collection of the Moscow Literary Museum (see Henry 2000, vol. 2, p. 89).
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