I love how the realist painters always ended up veering into a world not altogether "real". What was intended to shake a person out of their dream, with vividness of detail and rawness of emotion ends up charming a person into a dream with the magic of an illustration from a fairy tale. This is particularity notable in the work of Russian artist Ilya Repin. The quality of his work is masterful, colors, compositions, atmosphere, all perfect. His works were created slowly and carefully, perfectionism is evident in all of them, even the more relaxed portraits. His religious paintings have a character that is otherworldly, while the historical ones are as interesting and complex as more acclaimed paintings of the time. Despite the pastel colors much of his work is dark and he doesn't shy away from sinister themes, or fantastical ones.
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