I recently finished a portrait commission in charcoal that I'm really happy with. I would show it now if it wasn't for the fact that it's a surprise wedding gift for the client's fiance'. So, instead I'm going to talk about this painting that I ran across at the Cincinnati Art museum. - Well, not exactly. -I'll explain that in a moment.
Cincinnati actually has a nice art museum for a small conservative city, and I should add that we also have the Taft art museum and the Contemporary arts center as well, before I make it sound like we only have one public showcase for art.
Whenever I visit the museum, I often forget that there is quite a large collection unseen in storage, so when I ran across this painting I was very pleased and surprised to find it. I stared at it for quite sometime and wrote down the artist and Title. The painting is titled; "The Zaporozhye Cossacks writing a reply to the Sultan." Now the painting in the museum is done by Paul Porfiroff, but when I did a search online for it, I couldn't find a Paul Porfiroff, and instead the painting was credited to Ilya Efimovich Repin. Long story short, I'm 99% sure that the painting in the Cincinnati art museum is a copy for the fact that 1, the painting by Ilya Repin is said to be housed in The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2, the online images of the painting like the one above, seem to have a lot more detail than the painting I saw at the Cincinnati art museum, and 3, The signature on the painting I saw in person was done in red in the lower right hand corner, while the painting credited to Mr. Repin is done in black in the center bottom. If you're wondering why I haven't sought confirmation of this, well I have... I asked the museum's security personnel and info center personnel, and they didn't have a clue since it was recently put up on display and I sent an email to the museum curators asking about it and I am still waiting for a response.
Anyways, I still love the painting for many reasons...
First off, without even reading the title, you can tell that the cast of characters are writing something humorous, if not pointedly so, and there is an audience of revelers and contributors surrounding the sneering face of the scribe. I love the faces and poses in this painting. You can almost hear the laughter and read into the character of each man in this painting. I love the face and pose of the Cossack in the center smoking the pipe and glaring with a smile to the right.
Secondly, I love the ethnic diversity in this painting. Without conjuring up ideas of modern social-political agendas, I'm just saying that I love the sense of family within the painting given that you see men of European decent as well as men with differing ranges of Mongolian decent all congregating as a deeply linked brotherhood. I actually did some research on it and found that there is in fact, a deep bond of brotherhood in Cossack culture. You can find more about that as well as read the actual letter that was being written in this painting here.
Thirdly, I love the way this painting is designed. You can trace a spiral inward from the man in back center with his left hand pointing up and to the to the left and then spiraling clockwise you can follow the heads of the men closest to the scribe until you hit the feather at the dead center of the painting. The man siting on the barrel with his back to you is almost falling out of the painting and this direction is reinforced by the Cossack in the back exhaling smoke out his nose with the slanted rifle or spears behind him. - The rifle,or spears begin an invisible line to the head of the man leaning back on the barrel. Finally the crew in the center of the painting are framed by the man in the white cloak with his back to you as well as the man to the far left also with his back to you and just off the left edge of the canvas.