Monday, March 8, 2010

Golgotha (The Crucifixion of Christ)

Title: Golgotha (The Crucifixion of Christ)

Artist: Ilya Repin

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: 99 x 80cm

Date: 1869

Location: tbd.

The site of the crucifixion, “The Place of the Skull”, was likely so named because so many deaths had occurred there. The suggestion that the place was so named because it was shaped like a skull is possible, but the likelihood that the Romans happened to find a conspicuous place outside the city walls of Jerusalem, that happened to be shaped like a skull, seems suspect at best.

This painting of the chaos on Golgotha is a masterpiece of composition. The heavy sky, punctuated only by the raising of Jesus on the cross, lies in contrast to the mass of curious humanity in the lower half of the canvas. Chariots, onlookers, and banners all vie for position. On the far right is what appears to be a small group of Jesus’ followers. In Mark’s gospel, the disciples are notably absent after Jesus’ arrest, Mark (15:40) notes that “And there were also women beholding from afar”.

Ilya Yefimovich Repin (5 August 1844, Chuguyev, Kharkov Governorate, Russian Empire – September 29, 1930, Kuokkala, Finland) was a leading Russian painter and sculptor of the Peredvizhniki artistic school. In 1866, after apprenticeship with a local icon painter named Bunakov and preliminary study of portrait painting, he went to Saint Petersburg and was shortly admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts as a student. From 1873 to 1876 on the Academy's allowance, Repin sojourned in Italy and lived in Paris, where he was exposed to French Impressionist painting, which had a lasting effect upon his use of light and color. His realistic works often expressed great psychological depth and exposed the tensions within the existing social order. Beginning in the late 1920s, detailed works on him were published in the Soviet Union, where a Repin cult developed about a decade later, and where he was held up as a model "progressive" and "realist" to be imitated by "Socialist Realist" artists in the USSR.

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