Ilyá Yefímovich Repin was born on July 24, 1844 in Chuguev near Kharkov (now part of Ukraine). His father was a military officer. In 1866 he went to Saint Petersburg and was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts as a student. Repin sojourned in Italy and Paris on the Academy's allowance from 1873 to 1876. He painted a large number of peasants, fishwomen and scenes from merchant life.
Ilya Repin joined the Association of Peredvizhniki Artists in 1878. From 1882 he lived in Saint Petersburg but made frequent tours abroad. Inspired by Rembrandt's portraits of old people, he painted many of his celebrated compatriots, including Leo Tolstoy, Dmitri Mendeleev, Pobedonostsev, and Mussorgsky. In 1903 he was commissioned by the Russian government to paint his most grandiose design, a 400 x 877 cm canvas representing a ceremonial session of the State Council.
After the 1917 October Revolution, his home Penaty (literally, "the Penates"), located to the north from Saint Petersburg, was incorporated into Finland. He was invited by Lenin to come back to Russia but was too old to make a journey. He died in Kuokkala, Finland (now Repino, Leningrad Oblast) on September 29, 1930. The Penates are part of the World Heritage Site Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments