Christies Auction House has established a new world auction record for an Ilya Repin Painting by selling his masterpiece, A Parisian Cafe for £4,521,250.
The bidding for the Ilya Repin painting started at £1.8 million, and within seconds the room was buzzing as people were waiting in anticipation for further bids to come. The Ilya Repin painting finally sold to an anonymous bidder on the telephone who bid repeatedly against someone in the room.
Sarah Mansfield, Head of the Russian Art department: “Created in the turbulent centre of artistic innovation, that was Paris in the late 19th century, Ilya Repin’s epic painting ‘A Parisian Cafe’ is a masterpiece of the period, revealing both the influence of Western art on the Russian artist and Repin’s status as a trailblazing pioneer. This attracted interest from around the world and Christie’s showcased with this picture its ability to research, estimate and sell masterpieces of such uniqueness.”
Painted in Paris in 1875, this monumental canvas, arguably the most important Ilya Repin painting attracted a lot of interest in Moscow and Paris, where it was exhibited prior to the auction. The fact that it has remained in a distinguished private collection since 1916 added to its importance.
Nearly 80 exquisite preparatory sketches and studies for Repin’s seminal work were also sold alongside the painting and achieved a stunning £253,250, establishing a new world auction record for any drawing by Ilya Repin. All other individual sketches sold between 100,000 and 11,000.
About the Ilya Repin painting ‘A Parisian Cafe’
This unique Ilya Repin painting, A Parisian Cafe is quite atypical of his celebrated Russian subjects and marks a critical turning point in the then young artist’s burgeoning career. Painted during Repin’s stint as an student in Paris 1873-76, and exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1875, this was a time of creative consternation for the young Repin, faced with the artistic wonders of Europe and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the French capital. The finished work, exhibited in Paris in April-May 1875 under the title Un cafe du boulevard, provoked a heated exchange with his prime mentors, Vladimir Stasov and Ivan Kramskoi, with Repin defending his right to artistic independence
Certainly, looking at both the subject and the richly painterly treatment of A Parisian Cafe, parallels can be drawn between Repin and the Impressionists and to their pioneer Edouard Manet in particular. A Parisian Cafe in fact prefigures many of the group compositions showing people socialising at bars and cafes that would become such an icon of Impressionism, for instance Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Le Moulin de la Galette of 1876 – executed the year after A Parisian Cafe had been shown at the Salon – as well as his Déjeuner des canotiers of 1881or Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergères from the following year.