Ilya Repin (1844-1930): A Parisian Café, 1875, oil on

3/26/2021, 5:35:34 PM
Ilya Repin (1844-1930): A Parisian Café, 1875, oil on canvas, 120,6 x 191,8 cm, Private collection Created during his stint at the turbulent centre of artistic innovation that was Paris in the late 19th century, Repin's epic painting 'A Parisian Café' stands as a masterpiece of the period, revealing both the influence of Western art on the Russian artist, and his own status as a trailblazing pioneer during that time in both Russian and Western terms. It is also a key canvas in the development of his oeuvre and marks a critical turning point in the then young artist's burgeoning career. Repin vacillated throughout his stay in a creative schizophrenia, working on more traditional Russian subjects such as 'Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom' whilst simultaneously confounding his Russian peers by shifting his attention from national themes towards those of an experimental nature influenced by modern French art. Records passed down through the Swede Martin Mansson (who acquired the painting in 1916) identify the sitters as a fascinating cross-section of high and low cultural life in the French capital. The figure seated left, reading his newspaper at the table, is the French writer and literary critic Ferdinand Brunetière whilst the centrally-seated male figure, in black with moustache, is the famous Salon painter Jean-Léon Gérôme - although an alternative identification has him as the writer Guy de Maupassant (1850-93). Catulle Mendés, the French poet, novelist and dramatist was the model for the top-hatted man at the next table, whilst the tall man exiting as he removes a glove is identified as an Englishman named Mackenzie Graves. To the extreme right the seated figure is that of Bellot, a professional model used also by Manet for Le bon Bock. Various other minor figures are named although nothing is known of them, but the painting is held by the imposing female figure in black modelled from the celebrated actress Anna Judic. (Christie's)

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