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Ilja Jefimowitsch Repin was born in 1844 in Ukraine into the family of a military settler. His art education started with icon painting. In 1863, Ilja entered the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. In St. Petersburg, Ilja Jefimowitsch Repin joined the group of 14 young artists, called "Predvishniki". This group resisted the formal academy topics, which were focusing on mythological painting subjects, insisting that art should reflect real life. In 1871, Ilja Jefimowitsch Repin was awarded the Major Gold Medal and got a scholarship that allowed him to go to Paris in 1873 and study there until 1876. He also spent several months in Italy.
Upon returning to Russia, Repin was working in Moscow, frequently visiting Savva Mamontov, one of the most prominent art patrons of that time. Repin painted many portraits, which are not only an essential part of his artistic legacy, but also a mirror of their character. However, there are only few historical paintings by Ilja Jefimowitsch Repin.
The last quarter of the 19th century is the most notable period in Repin's work, though he continued to work well into the 20th century (the artist died in 1930). He did not paint any outstanding works in the latter years of his life. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, he lived and worked at his estate Penates in Finland, where there is a Repin museum today.
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