Art Spotlight: Repin’s Tolstoy

BY Robert Lamb / POSTED April 10, 2014
Springtime for Tolstoy! (Heritage Images/Getty Images) Springtime for Tolstoy! (Heritage Images/Getty Images)

I searched way too hard and long for an image to accompany our podcast episode “Rites of Spring,” which deals with the effects of springtime on the human experience and human health. In the end, I settled on 1912′s “Portrait of the author Leo N Tolstoy” by the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, Il’ya Repin (1844-1930).

He just captures such wonder in the old man’s eyes here. We can practically feel the sun’s warmth revitalizing his flesh. We can almost smell those flowers.

Repin was a true master. He captured the wonder and hope of Leo Tolstoy here, he also captured the despair and horror of Ivan the Terrible in one of my favorite Repin paintings:

'Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan,' 1885 (Wikimedia Commons) ‘Ivan the Terrible and His Son,’ 1885 (Wikimedia Commons)

Such horror, such heartbreaking regret and shame in the aftermath of violence. The painting captures all the complexities of the situation in pitch-perfect quality.


About the author: Robert Lamb is a senior writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind with Julie Douglas. He has a love for monsters, an aversion to slugs and a hankering for electronic music.

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