Lot 10
  • 10

Ilya Efimovich Repin

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Ilya Efimovich Repin
  • Study for a Man in Spanish Costume
  • signed E. Repinn and dated 1873 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 22 by 18 1/4 in., 56 by 46.5 cm


Private Collection, England
Private Collection, United States, circa 1950


I.E. Grabar and I.S. Zilbershtein, Repin, vol. 1, Moscow, 1948-49, p. 121, illustrated

Catalogue Note

 With the help of an academic scholarship Ilya Repin embarked on his first travels to Western Europe in 1873, journeying to Vienna, Venice and Rome before at last arriving in Paris. He spent the following three years working and studying in the French capital. This period has come to represent a significant turning point in his career, for it forced him to grapple with his identity as a Russian artist, attempting to balance the influences of an increasingly progressive Western Europe with his professional academic training. He arrived during a critical shift in the history of modern art; the Académie des Beaux-Arts held their annual, juried art show at the Salon de Paris featuring close to two thousand paintings, each offered for astounding prices compared to the artist's own trivial stipend from the St. Petersburg Academy. Simultaneously, the Société Anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs held their first exhibition in the studio of Felix Nadar. Repin was of two minds in his reaction to these exhibitions; he was impressed by the progressive atmosphere that encouraged experimentation, but found the work of Charles-François Daubigny and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot to be unexceptional. Perhaps most remarkable for him was the "unbridled freedom of the Impressionists" (Repin's letter to P. Tretyakov, May 23, 1874), particularly the work of Édouard Manet, whose output prompted the revolutionary transition from Realism to Impressionism.

While in Paris, Repin poured his energy into several monumental compositions including Paris Café and Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom. In addition to and often in preparation for these projects, he executed a number of smaller yet significant paintings and studies. Many were portraits, a genre that has come to define his career as an artist. It is in his portraits that we see his skill as a master draughtsman as well as his profound ability to capture a sitter's psychological state. Study for a Man in Spanish Costume, executed during Repin's first year in Paris (and the same year he painted Paris Café), elegantly demonstrates the effect of Western European immersion on the artist's realistic aesthetic. Depicting a wealthy gentleman adorned in a traditional Spanish hat and stately ruff, his features dramatized by severe chiaroscuro, the image echoes the timeless portraiture of such masters as 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn and French Realist Gustave Courbet, both of whom Repin credited for their influence on his oeuvre of this period. Although absolutely unmatched in its psychological complexity, Repin's painting also reflects an awareness of the concurrent work of Manet, and it prefigures the portraits of John Singer Sargent that would appear at the Parsian salons in the following decade.