Ilia Repin was born on the 5th of August in 1844 in Chuhuiv, Zmiiv County, Kharkiv gubernia and died on the 29th of September in 1930 in Kuokkala, Finland. Repin, an outstanding painter, a full member of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts from 1893, started his career under I. Kramskoi at the Drawing School of the Society for the Support of Artists (1863-1864). He studied at the Academy of Arts (1864-1871), which granted him a scholarship to study in Italy and France (1873-1876). He joined the Peredvizhniki Society in 1878 and the Mir Iskusstva group in 1890. For many years he lived in St Petersburg and served as a professor (1894-1907) and the rector (1898- 1899) of the Academy of Arts, where his students included the Ukrainian painters M. Pymonenko, O. Murashko, F. Krasytsky, and S. Prokhorov.
Since 1900 Repin lived in Kuokkala. A good part of his work consists of genre paintings. Some of the works show his attachment to Ukraine, its people, and its history.
Among them there is the famous painting “The Zaporizhian Cossaks Write a Letter to the Turkish Sultan” (1880-1891), “Evening Party” (1881), “Haidamakys” (1898-1917), “Cossack in the Steppe” (1908), and “Hopak” (1926-1930, unfinished). He painted many portraits of Russian and Ukrainian cultural figures, including A. Kuindzhi (1877), M. Kostomarov (1880, 1886), I. Kramskoi (1882), T. Shevchenko (1888), and D. Bahalii (1906). He also did illustrations for editions of Gogol’s “Taras Bulba” (1872) and “Sorochinsky yarmarok” (Sorochyntsi Fair, 1882) and for his friend D. Yavornitsky’s “The Zaporizhia in the Remnants of Antiquity and the Legends of the People”. He submitted four drawings in the competition for the design of the monument to Shevchenko in Kyiv (1910-1914).
Repin sketched many Ukrainian landscapes and inhabitants. Although Repin was a realist, his rich colours and restless lines often produce an almost expressionistic effect. Some of his paintings show the influence of impressionism and symbolism.