Ilya Repin, Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870) Painting Poster

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Please note, we also sell a framed version of this poster here on RUS & SOV.

About the Painting

Ilya Repin's Barge Haulers on the Volga (Russian: Бурлаки на Волге) is an outstanding painting that brought this Russian master his first widespread acclaim in the international art world. 

Repin's work of the 1870s -1900s was culturally significant for his contemporaries and has become the prototypical illustration of this time for posterity. Repin's subjects depicted many of the problems Russia faced in the second half of the 19th century. Often this meant criticism of the country's social and political system, including the unfulfilled aspirations and hopes of the intelligentsia in post-reform Russia.

Repin (1844-1930) saw these Volga barge haulers as a young man in 1868, and they immediately thrilled his soul. In particular, he was amazed at the contrast between such people, dressed in tatters and harnessed to a strap, and the way the more well-to-do would stroll about town.

The way in which he painted these haulers dragging a heavy cargo barge depicts oppression of the poor and issues a call for mercy towards the common man. It's amazing how in a seemingly depersonalized gray crowd of hard work, Repin revealed the individual traits of each of the barge haulers and endowed them with a character which can be read in their faces. In fact, after having taken two trips to the Volga to capture this painting, Repin had become closely acquainted with the barge haulers he depicted.

Thanks to the contrast between this string of slaves and the spreading expanse of the wide, full-blooded Volga with a white sailing ship in the background (unconsciously associated with freedom in the viewer), the Repin managed to pass judgment on the society of his day and how it cruelly enslaved the powerless.

Repin finished Barge Haulers on the Volga in March 1873 and the painting was then first exhibited in St. Petersburg at an art exhibition intended to be sent to the World Exhibition in Vienna that year. The painting immediately brought Repin great fame, it received a bronze medal at the World Exhibition, and it was subsequently purchase for 3,000 rubles by Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.

About the Barge Haulers

The group represents a single whole and at the same time consists of three separate parts. At the forefront is the leading barge hauler, Kanin, whose head resembles the face of an ancient Greek philosopher. The figures surrounding Kanin are endowed with unique features: a Nizhny Novgorod fighter with a lowered powerful hand; Ilka the sailor looking sullenly at the viewer; a tall, thin man with a pipe.

The compositional center of the barge haulers is a boy in a red shirt named Larka, straightening a strap that is slipping from his thin shoulders. The extreme tension of his strap is emphasized by the images of barge haulers walking alongside: one of whom, leaning against a neighbor, slowly fills his pipe with tobacco; the other of whom wipes sweat from an exhausted and pained face.

In the closing group, the profile of a bearded man in a hat stands out, which complements the general rhythmic pattern of the slowly walking crowd. In general, a stern group portrait of eleven barge haulers is born. Each of the heroes of the picture was for Repin a living person with his own destiny, character, and inner world. 

Original Painting

Ilya Repin, Barge Haulers on the Volga, 1870

Poster Quality

Museum-quality posters made on thick and durable matte paper. Add a wonderful accent to your room and office with these posters that are sure to brighten any environment.

Please note, all poster sizes are in inches (1 inch = 2.54 cm). 

• Paper thickness: 10.3 mil
• Paper weight: 5.57 oz/y² (189 g/m²)
• Giclée printing quality
• Opacity: 94%

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