Barge Haulers on the Volga

Ilya Repin, Barge Haulers on the Volga 1870–187

The painting that I have decided to talk about is the painting of the men who are alongside the shore pulling a boat with ropes and straps. The title of the painting is noted above. I find this piece of art very interesting because of how the painting overemphasizes the persecution of the workers in the photo. They are pulling the boat with ropes and straps that seem to be gnawing at their clothes and skin and are not in any comfortable position whatsoever. Next, the boat that they are pulling does not have its sails up at all, whereas the boat in the background (the boat to the left as you look at the painting) does have its sails up and is sailing down the river with ease. This implies that the boat that the workers are pulling could possible be sailing but the leadership on the boat has decided to be lazy and use the workers anyways. Also in the background of the painting (to the right) is what appears to be a steamboat. This also contributes to the extreme emphasis of this photo with the fact that there is another way of transportation for boats besides using manual laborers.

What I have found about this painting is that is was based off of a real photo of four men who are doing the same type of work. Also, what I thought before was a person who was in charge of the men was actually a laborer. I got this information from wikipedia. The link to this source is below. This young man (centered in the center of the picture) is dressed very well and is standing straight up with confidence and perseverance to endure his hard labor. Also, this painting was exhibited in the 1873 International Exhibition in Vienna (wikipedia). It was purchased by Tsar Alexander II’s son (wikipedia). I also learned from wikipedia that the men are actually pulling the boat upstream. This is just another factor to emphasize the ludicrous backbreaking work of laborers during that time.

One comment

  1. aaronsr1 · September 1, 2015

    I wrote my article on the same picture. I came up with many of the same conclusions that you did, however, I believe the emphasis to not only be on the back breaking work of the laborers but also on the young individual in the center who is standing up and seems to be taking off the ropes. I thought this to be Repin’s way of showing the importance of the new generation’s ability to stand against tyranny. You can check out my article here


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s