“Denial of confession” by Ilya Repin
Repin wrote people turned into cattle, barge haulers pulling barges along the river. Dared to write the Russian tsar, who killed his own son. Reflecting on the history of his country, he portrayed the Cossacks, who “throughout life” remained free. He lovingly and carefully created portraits of the raging Vladimir Stasov, the great Leo Tolstoy and the leader of the Itinerants, Ivan Kramskoy.
More than once Repin returned to two themes that troubled the soul: the church and its disastrous role in Russian society, the image of a man who defiantly challenged it and the autocracy.
Creating a portrait of the Protodeacon in 1877, Repin himself described it like this: “… he is all flesh and blood, pop-up eyes, sheds and roars, meaningless roars, but solemn and strong, like the rite itself in most cases.” He wrote a sketch of the painting “The Icon of the Day”, where the men fought for the right to carry the icon, and a stick was raised directly above the “holy” face for a fierce blow. In the painting “The Procession of the Cross in the Kursk Province” he remained faithful to this topic: the fattened lady carrying the icon is protected by the Sotsky with a dull face. The village headman drives off the stick in the center of the procession with a stick. And a mob of an equestrian constable, rising to the crowd, beating up defenseless, who are helplessly blocked by their arms raised above their heads …
The artist is attracted by the images of those who are fighting against the “outrageous reality”. Here is the study “On the Dirty Road” – a revolutionary in a prison gown is being carried by two gendarmes with swords naked. Or the picture “The arrest of the propagandist.” But “Gathering” – the lamp illuminates a circle of the assembled youth, a speaker in a red shirt has just finished speaking. And finally, the famous painting “We did not wait”, where a person is shown who has returned from exile. The thin, tormented by grief, look each other in the eyes of the long-suffering mother and the former convict-son …
And again these two big themes are intertwined in one small film “Denial of Confession”. Two people remained in the chamber, one by one: a priest who was sentenced to execution and came to receive the death-confession. The last possibility of forgiveness before a terrible and inevitable violent death. Before us is dying and remaining to live. But the roles have changed: his strong conviction, the courage is the one who dies at dawn, and the weak, the pitiful – the one who brought consolation.
Under the picture the years of its creation are written – 1879–1885. Six years she stood on the easel of the artist. For six years he was thinking about her. There are still drawings, according to which we can guess how the artist’s thought developed, how the images of a priest and a revolutionary changed in his mind. The time when the first premonition of the picture appeared is known for sure. It was the year 1879. V. Stasov brought Repin the first issue of the illegal journal Narodnaya Volya. The poem “The Last Confession” by the poet N. Minsky was published here. The last confession occurs. But the priest meets not humility, but pride, not a broken thirst for struggle, but the highest uplift of spirit, before which even his own destiny seems petty, but great is one popular affair.
Through the years, Stasov recalled how they read these lines: “I remember how you and I, a dozen years ago, read Confession, and how we rushed about, as if stung and almost deadly impressed. Everything else without such a “sting” is a lie, nonsense and pretense in art. ”
For six years, Repin was looking for a composition of a painting and finally found it: the priest turned his back on us, the suicide bomber was sitting on the bed, his hands deep in the sleeves of the prisoner’s robe. The first light of the dawn, the dawn of his last day, flashes the face. And, strictly speaking, his face is the picture. We see a man exhausted by the prison, his tousled hair, drooping mustache, the prisoner’s pathetic outfit. But the prisoner despises death, as N. Kibalchich, a Narodnoselets despised her, on the last night of his life, continued to develop the design of an aircraft with a jet engine. The prisoner depicted in the picture does not need the comfort of a priest.
The Russian clergy in the middle of the last century opposed the emancipation of the peasantry. It opposed the abolition of corporal punishment. No wonder Moscow Metropolitan Philaret called “rozgolyub” and “Knutofil”. And when, after the reform of 1861, in order to divert the attention of the rebellious people, “discovered” new relics and canonized the new saint, Herzen, addressing the Russian clergy, in anger wrote: “What are all black people, what are you all villains of the people! .. . ”
No, not two people collided in the prison cell in the morning before the execution: two worldviews are before us. The future belongs to one of them, the other convulsively pushes everyone towards ignorance and darkness.
The picture was bold and appealing as a leaflet. Seeing her, Stasov wrote Repin: “Ilya, I am beside myself – not something that is from admiration, but from happiness. I have received your Confession at this moment.