One world-famous painter portrayed two nations – Ukrainians above, Russians below


The painter is Ukrainian (now officailly according to MetMuseum) Ilya Repin. The upper painting is the Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Turkish Sultan, the one below – the Barge Haulers on the Volga. Several impressive facts about the Reply of the Zaporoshian Cossacks painting – the 2.03 meter by 3.58 m canvas was started in 1878 and finished in 1891. The work took Repin 13 years mostly because the painter had to travel a lot and do a lot of meticulous research striving to achieve historical accuracy. After Ukraine’s independence, people suddenly realized that already in the times of the Tsarist Russia, Ilya Repin portrayed the colors of the flags of the Cossacks’ Host that would become the colors of Ukrainian Independence. As can be seen, one flag wrapped around the pole shows blue and yellow which are the official colors of the Ukrainian statehood, and the other one shows red and black which are the colors the Cossacks used in wartime. Fun fact about the Barge Haulers is that in the actual painting one can vaguely see an early steam-powered barge moving on the Volga in the distance. Due to this, the painting is often considered a striking example of an early depiction of how Russia was (and still is) a backward underdeveloped medieval place compared to the rest of the then-modernizing world. Repin loved and admired Ukraine and despised Russia. D. Snowyd made a keen observation: “Ukraine in his paintings is all beauty, joy, happiness, a grand and even reckless struggle against powerful enemies. Russia is wallowing in ugliness and cruelty.” One can compare it with the observations John Steinbeck made during his visit to Ukraine after WW2 NEXT POST >

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