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The last work of the great Russian painter Ilya Efimovich Repin was the painting "Hopak". He wrote it in fragments (from 1926 until his death in September 1930). Art critics are very critical of this picture due to the non-standard composition and very bright colors. By the way, "Hopak" really stands out sharply against the background of other works by Repin, which is due to the artist's old age and poor health. But there are other reasons as well. What plot is concealed in the last work of the master, and what life results did the artist reflect in it?
About the artist
Ilya Efimovich Repin is a Russian realist artist who is considered the most famous Russian artist of the 19th century. Often, his position in the world of painting is compared with the fame of Leo Tolstoy in literature. In particular, Repin played a significant role in the popularization of Russian art in European culture. The most famous canvases of the master are Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873), Religious Procession in Kursk Province (1883) and The Answer of the Zaporozhye Cossacks (1880–91).
The work "Hopak" was written in the second period of the artist's work, which Igor Grabar, a student of the artist, called "the time of creative decline." However, in recent decades, art critics have begun to evaluate the late period of Repin's artistic work differently. The painting was painted in the Finnish estate of Penates (today it is a museum). This is the third painting in the life of Ilya Repin, created on the Zaporozhye theme.
Unfortunately, in recent years, Repin lived in poverty and there was not enough money even for canvases. "Hopak" was written on a piece of linoleum (in some places its pattern is even visible). The work was started in 1926, then suspended and continued again in 1928-1929. Just a year later, in 1930, the great Russian artist died. Repin dedicated the canvas to his close friend and beloved composer Modest Mussorgsky. Mussorgsky had an opera, Sorochinskaya Yarmarka, which Repin admired. One of the excerpts from the opera is called “Hopak”.
The plot of the workIn his painting, Repin depicted dancing Cossacks, who vigorously and boldly jump over a scarlet fire. All the heroes are dressed brightly and colorfully (their outfits literally glow with red and yellow hues, resembling tongues of fire). A dark scabbard hangs from the heroes' belts. The dynamics of the dance are felt vividly and powerfully. We can say with confidence that almost every viewer wanted to dash along with the heroes of Repin's painting.
The main character of the plot is a fervently dancing Cossack on the right side of the picture. He is dressed in a bright outfit: oriental flavor, golden ornaments, wide national trousers and a caftan. A scarlet hat flaunts on the head of the Zaporozhets. On the right, the viewer sees another Cossack who plays a musical instrument (it is likely a bandura). Also noticeable are the figures of a man jumping over the fire and another Cossack who throws firewood into the fire.
Yavornitsky's helpIn the work of "Hopak", as in all previous canvases, the historical accuracy was important to Repin. That is why, in the process of painting the picture, the artist consulted with the scientist, Russian and Ukrainian historian and ethnographer Dmitry Yavornitsky. In the letter, Repin asked to send historical photographs of the Cossacks and residents of Zaporozhye. Considering that Yavornitsky was known as an expert on the Zaporozhye Cossacks and fully helped Repin, there is no doubt about the historical authenticity of the artist's paintings.
It is interesting that it was Yavornitsky who advised Repin to paint the painting "The Cossacks are Writing a Letter to the Turkish Sultan," and it was he who posed for the artist as a clerk in the center of the picture.
Palette and compositionThe first thing that catches the eye of the viewer is the abundance of colors and a bright palette that is not typical of Repin. Here are all shades of red, blue, green. Clear and hard strokes are noticeable. Non-standard composition is the highlight of Repin's painting. One gets the impression that the plot did not fit into the picture and there are still parts of the Hopaka cycle. The viewer must have noticed that the face of the Cossack in the upper part of the picture was deliberately not included in the composition. The hero on the right has a similar format (his body is only half depicted by Repin). The composition has a diagonal perspective (this is a sky-blue shawl, fluttering in half of the canvas, and a diagonally depicted body of the main Cossack).
Daring, fun, mischief and bright optimism are the main emotions that are felt from Repin's painting! On the other hand, the painful brightness, strange angles, the seeming fun of the dancers - all this is the handwriting of another Repin, almost unfamiliar to those who grew up in the USSR. Here are the words of Repin during the painting period: “For three weeks I felt very bad, but still, leaning now on the sleepers, now on the walls, I still did not throw Sich - I crawled and crawled away. But I won't be able to finish … It's a pity. The picture comes out beautiful and funny."
Thus, the work became the last consolation of the artist in the difficult years of his death in Penates. Repin survived poverty, hunger, two revolutions, lost his citizenship, his entire fortune was nationalized…. What did Repin want to say with his latest work? Perhaps this is the artist's message to future generations - to maintain an energetic attitude, faith in a better future, to be devoted to your talent and work, despite the possible hardships of life.