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The painting "Barge Hauler" (1870) is one of the works that preceded the appearance of the large-scale and famous painting by Ilya Efimovich Repin "Barge Haulers on the Volga", a portrait of the hooded Kanin. For the first time, the artist became interested in the topic of the burlaks trade back in St. Petersburg, when during one of the out-of-town walks along the Neva he saw sullen and ragged people pulling a barque along the river; later, the artist recalled how terrified he saw the unfortunate barge haulers harnessed to the strap instead of cattle. On the advice of a friend, Repin, along with other artists, went to the Volga to make several drawings and learn more about the Volga bourgeoisie.
In the vicinity of Samara, the artist found out where the burlak artel was usually located. When he managed to get to know each of the barge haulers separately, Repin began to realize that these were not cowardly and dumb creatures, but real people, strong, intelligent and courageous, worthy of respect. When Repin came up with the idea of depicting them on an extensive general canvas, the artist began to prepare for his main work, making numerous sketches, sketches, studies.
The most famous of the paintings of this time, dedicated to the barge haulers, is a portrait of a man named Kanin, whom the artist especially admired. For Repin, he was the personification of wisdom and almost a philosopher, as the painter himself pointed out. In his expression, in movements and in speech, Repin saw the depth and great strength of the soul, trying to convey these features in the picture being created. And three years later, the main work was completed, depicting the work of the entire artel - eleven hacks with Kanin in the front row, pulling a bulky barge against the current.
Vermeer Girl With Pearl Earring