The 1905 Portrait of the Writer N.B. Nordman-Severova is a peaceful affair. As with most of his work, the painting is oil on canvas. Unlike some of his more detailed work though, this portrait uses broad strokes of colour, especially for the background landscape which is almost impressionist in its simplicity. Nordman herself is much more detailed. Repin often used to focus on the details of the people in his pictures over the inanimate objects, making them often stand out starkly from the background. However, there is nothing stark about his partner in this picture.
She is completely restful in her chair, and her eyes are closed as if deep in thought. Only the fact that she is lightly holding a parasol tells us she is not, in fact, asleep. Her expression is serene, and a glimpse of flowers through the railings of the balustrade tells us this is a beautiful place to sit- perhaps her favourite. Ilya Repin and Natalia Nordman spent 14 years together from 1900 until her death in 1914. She was a suffragette, a vegetarian, an animal right's advocate and the author of the 1910 book, Intimnyi︠a︡ stranit︠s︡y. Repin's well-known socialist ideals and Nordman's fight for women’s rights went hand in hand, and together, they started a weekly get together for sympathetic artists, philosophers, scientists and writers.
Each Wednesday, the Nordman home would be open to visitors including Isaak Brodsky and Vladimir Bekhterev. Repin took the time to do portraits of these visitors, creating a unique album for Nordman of some of the most exciting characters in Russia at the time. In 1911, this album was displayed to the world in a special room at the World Exhibition in Italy. The portraits from Natalia’s collection were eventually separated. They were most recently exhibited at the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation Research Museum at the Russian Academy of Arts. The portraits of Natalia Nordman have also been displayed at an exhibition dedicated to the wives of famous Russian artists, at the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow.