Burlak (1870) by Ilya Repin

Burlak - Ilya Repin - 1870

Artwork Information

ArtistIlya Repin
Art MovementRealism

About Burlak

The artwork titled “Burlak” was created by the artist Ilya Repin in the year 1870. It belongs to the Realism art movement and is classified within the genre of portraiture. As a striking example of Repin’s contribution to Realist painting, it depicts the figure of a burlak, or a manual laborer who hauled barges and other heavy loads along rivers in Imperial Russia.

In this poignant portrait, the subject appears introspective and weary, evoking the somber nature of their toil. The man portrayed in the painting is dressed in work attire typical for a burlak, with a loose-fitting, coarse green shirt, the sleeves rolled up to reveal strained, reddened forearms, possibly as a result of physical labor. The notable headwear and a shoulder harness worn by the figure suggest that he has been engaged in his grueling task, depicted resting or in a moment of repose against a background that offers a glimpse of the natural setting in which burlaks labored.

The artist’s keen attention to detail and use of lighting accentuate the textures and fabric of the worker’s clothing and the flesh tones of his exposed skin. Repin’s mastery in portraying the harsh realities of the working class, and the human condition in general, is evident in the depth of expression captured in the burlak’s facial features and stance. The psychological realism achieved in this artwork is a testament to the emotional depth and social commentary characteristic of Ilya Repin’s oeuvre.

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