Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870 – 1873; Russian Federation) by Ilya Repin

Barge Haulers on the Volga - Ilya Repin - 1870 - 1873; Russian Federation

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Artwork Information

TitleBarge Haulers on the Volga
ArtistIlya Repin
Date1870 - 1873; Russian Federation
Dimensions131 x 281 cm
Art MovementRealism
Current LocationRussian Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

About Barge Haulers on the Volga

The artwork “Barge Haulers on the Volga” was created by Ilya Repin between 1870 and 1873 in the Russian Federation. This piece, part of the Realism movement, is a genre painting executed in oil on canvas, measuring 131 by 281 centimeters. The artwork is housed at the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and it stands as a poignant example of social realism.

In the artwork, Repin vividly portrays a group of barge haulers straining to pull a heavy boat along the Volga River. The scene is rendered with meticulous attention to detail and stark naturalism, which was characteristic of the Realist movement. The figures are depicted in various stages of exertion, with some of the haulers at the center appearing more prominently, while others are staggered in the background, conveying a strong sense of depth and dimension.

Dressed in tattered and worn clothing, the barge haulers’ physiques and expressions are painted in a manner that powerfully communicates their fatigue and determination. The central figures have rugged faces that reflect the harsh realities of their labor-intensive lives. Their positioning, anchored by a taut rope that seems to visually splice the canvas, emphasizes the physical burden they collectively bear. The setting sun casts a warm light upon the scene, enhancing the textures and creating a contrast between the toil of the men and the tranquility of the landscape.

The composition masterfully juxtaposes the arduous human activity in the foreground against the serenity of the broad river expanse and distant sailboats in the background. This contrast amplifies the sense of struggle and injustice experienced by the haulers, critiquing the social conditions of the time. Overall, Repin’s “Barge Haulers on the Volga” is not just an artistic representation but also a profound social commentary that resonates with the viewer through its emotional intensity and realism.

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