Born in Chuguyev to a military family, Ilya Repin quickly became celebrated for realist works such as the early Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-3), and later for his vivid portraits of major figures in Russian society, notably Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) (a close friend) and Emperor Nicholas II. Though he studied and travelled in Paris, where he encountered the work of the Impressionists, Repin spent most of his life in Russia, as part of a thriving community of Russian artists and thinkers. In 1900, he met Natalia Nordman, who became his common-law wife, and together they moved to Penaty - or 'Penates' - a peaceful home in the small, semi-rural village of Repino which came under Finnish control in 1918. Over the course of the thirty years the couple lived here, the house became a salon for writers and thinkers including Maxim Gorky (1868-1936), Vasily Polenov (1844-1927), Isaak Brodsky (1883-1939) and Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930). Ilya Repin was buried on the site when he died in 1930.
Repino returned to the Soviet Union in 1939, and the following year Penates opened as a memorial-museum celebrating the artist's life and work.Today, it displays carefully restored nineteenth-century interiors, including much of Repin's original furniture, along with the artist's personal effects. Photographs from the extensive archive are displayed on a rolling basis, along with an ongoing programme of temporary exhibitions and displays.
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