Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin

One of the foremost advocates of naturalistic representation from any artistic era Repin defined essence of Russian Realism. From the humble beginnings of his birth he became an artist of bedazzling skill and insight, creating technically skilled work which conveyed a deep sensitivity to human emotion and suffering, and to historical and political events. Repin was committed to the spirit of the peasant class of his roots which allowed his art to be a humane social commentary. Despite being highly critical of Tsarist oppression his work brought him fame within state institutions. It is perhaps ironic that as an adopted patriarch of drab Social Realism the power of his work resonates much further than that milieu or any narrow context....