Art Spotlight: Repin's Tolstoy


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,' 1885
'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 spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.