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Ilya Repin’s Volga boatmen Essay

Ilya Repin’s Volga boatmen Essay

“Painting is a branch of the visual arts, in which color is applied to various surfaces to create a representational or abstract picture or design” (Vishny, 2003). A painting can represent an artist’s ideas or reflect the condition of a society. Some of the great masterpieces in art history include Peter Rubens’ The Battle of the Amazons, Frederic Church’s Heart of the Andes and Ilya Repin’s Volga boatmen. “The Battle of the Amazons” was painted by Peter Rubens during the Baroque epoch in 1616-1618.

The painting employed the Flemish Baroque Style while the theme represented a battle scene from Greek mythology. It showed a violent struggle between Theseus’ (King of Athens) defense force and a group of women warriors commonly known as Amazons. In this graphical depiction of Rubens, he made use of strong dark colors of red, black and yellow that exemplified belligerence. “The glowing color and light that flickers across limbs and draperies gave a sense of movement and tactile strength” (Davison, 2006).

For me, this piece of art showed that in a game of war nobody wins and everybody looses. No matter what the motivation or the cause of the conflict, war can’t still be justified because in reality lives are being taken and that is contradictory to human’s purpose which is to live. On the other hand, Frederic Church’s Heart of the Andes is a pleasant landscape illustration of a scenic view in Ecuador along the Andes Mountains. His delicate fusions of water, light and air and his seemingly infinite vistas emphasized an accurate depiction of an unspoiled and picturesque environment.

This painting gave many Americans during the late 19th century their first glimpse of the tropics, which is rendered as exotic and as an underdeveloped terrain (Smith, 1989, pp-1-2). I think that the “Heart of Andes” reflected the artist’s love for nature. Meanwhile, Ilya Repin’s Volga Boatmen is a painting about bargemen which were called “burlaki” harnessed together along the shoreline of Volga River in Russia. Repin was able to convincingly depict the status of the working class during that period.

He treated the main elements of his painting with dark colors to represent weariness, melancholiness and captivity which is contrasted by the light yellow and blue hues that showed nature’s beauty. Furthermore, Volga Boatmen became the model for mid-20th-century Soviet socialist realism that honestly and realistically demonstrated the social condition of Russia during that period (Davison, 2006). These three art works are representational paintings.

The Battle of the Amazons, Heart of the Andes and Volga Boatmen represented a particular event, a definite place and a specific social condition. Ruben, Church and Repin used the same medium but they pointed out three different views. In the case of Ruben, he gave a glimpse of the Greek mythology, which is a commonly used theme in the Renaissance era, to his viewers. Beneath the nudes, animals and mythological creatures, issues on the effects of war and subordination of women were raised.

For Church, he used his artistry to showcase an unspoiled landscape and stressed that places like this do exist outside their own backyard. The natural effect of the painting gave its viewers an organic feeling which is in opposite with Ruben’s somber depiction of the Battle of the Amazons and Repin’s gloomy rendition of the Volga Boatmen. Meanwhile, Repin showed in his painting his advocacy for socialist realism. He depicted a social scene with a realistic detail to impart to his viewers his social conviction.

Overall, these paintings may differ in subject matter, color or styles but the only common thing in these masterpieces is that these are not only art works but are also considered as historical documents that tell a story of a certain period or time. More so, these paintings exude a serious mood with the common theme of battle. It is seen mostly in the small detailed elements that were carefully placed by the artists in their respective paintings. In the Battle of the Amazon, the use of dead nudes dramatizes the plight of women against the Greek men.

The painting emphasized the social status of women as inferior to men but the battle scene depicted the attempts of the amazons to prove to the Greeks that they are not weak. Meanwhile, in the Heart of the Andes, it shows a different kind of battle. The presence of the white cross and open-root tree on the riverbank suggests the vulnerability of the environment. Church intended this element to show the fight to preserve and protect the pristine beauty of nature from the opportunist hands of man.

As for Repin’s Volga Boatmen, the sea elements on the shoreline accentuates the barrenness of the place that heightens the unfavorable condition of the boatmen. This painting represents the conflict between workers and the upper class. It shows the class struggle of the masses against the privilege.


Davison, B. (2006). A Painting Critique: The Battle of the Amazons, Heart of the Andes, and Volga Boatmen. Associated Content Inc, pp. 1-2. Retrieved February 23, 2008, from http://www.associatedcontent. com/article/93533/a_painting_critique_the_battle_of_the. html. Lerkins Global Ltd. (2003). Rubens, Peter Paul The Battle of the Amazons. Retrieved February 23, 2008, from http://oldmasterpiece. com/rubens,peter,paul,the,battle,of,the,amazons,738. html? PHPSESSID=ed5695e80ea4b61861f84e53e04b9c7a Smith, R. 1989 October 30. Review/Art: Poetry and Showmanship of Frederic Church. New York Times, pp. 1-2. Vishny, M. (2003). Painting. Microsoft Encarta Reference Library. Microsoft Corporation.